Evidence-based strategies that lead to a diverse awardee portfolio [HRA Members Meeting, Irvine, Spring 2023]

Wednesday March 22, 8:00am-9:30am PT

Organizations have used a variety of strategies to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion of their supported researchers. These include but are not limited to direct outreach to minority serving groups/organizations/institutions, changes to RFAs and changes to the review process. While many of these strategies have been implemented, their success is still being evaluated. The focus of this session was for organizations to share strategies for which they have evidence, positive or negative, as to whether these strategies have been successful in helping them achieve their DEI goals.

Lindsay Redman-Rivera, PhD
Grants Officer | Health Resources in Action
Lindsay Redman Rivera joined the Biomedical Research Grantmaking team as a Grants Officer in 2021. Prior to joining HRiA, she received a B.S. in Biochemistry from New Mexico State University followed by a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University, where she studied mechanisms of tumorigenesis in epithelial cancers. Dr. Redman Rivera has a broad scientific background with over 10 years of research experience spanning the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and cancer biology at both academic, nonprofit and government institutions. Her experience has resulted in the award of multiple fellowships and honors, as well as the publication of high-impact manuscripts and presentations at national and international conferences. Dr. Redman Rivera has also provided service and leadership by contributing to initiatives focused on improving mental health and wellness, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biomedical research community.

Cyndi Atherton, PhD 
Director of Science | Heising Simons Foundation
Cyndi Atherton is the Director of the Science program at the Heising-Simons Foundation. The program funds research primarily in the physical sciences (physics, astronomy, cosmology) and climate change science. It also funds work to increase the number of historically underrepresented people in these disciplines. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2013, Cyndi was a science program director at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, where she oversaw portfolios that included astronomy, condensed matter physics, seismology, and other physical sciences. She earned her Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of California, Davis, and has a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from Caltech in engineering and applied science. She conducted research in atmospheric chemistry and physics at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory prior to joining the Moore Foundation. Cyndi is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate.

Raeka Aiyar, PhD
Vice President, Scientific & DEIB Outreach| New York Stem Cell Foundation
Raeka Aiyar, PhD, is Vice President of Scientific & DEIB Outreach at the NYSCF Research Institute and an experienced geneticist turned science communicator. Her research pursuits have focused on applying genomics to the study of disease, with the goal of enabling precision medicine. Trained in genetics and bioinformatics at the University of Waterloo, Canada, she received her PhD in Molecular Genetics from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Heidelberg, Germany. During her doctoral and postdoctoral work, she developed and applied genomic technologies to discover new therapeutic targets for mitochondrial ATP synthase disorders. Throughout her career, Dr. Aiyar has led several international and interdisciplinary collaborations in the areas of genetics, precision medicine, functional genomics, mitochondrial diseases, and synthetic biology.

Since her postdoctoral work, Dr. Aiyar has spent years exercising her passion for science communication, engaging a variety of audiences through writing, training, and outreach. As Scientific Communications Officer at EMBL, she supported her lab in manuscripts, presentations, and grants focused on functional genomics. She then took on a broader role to support the genetics research community as Communications and Engagement Manager at the Genetics Society of America. Next, as Director of Communications and Development at the Stanford Genome Technology Center working with Dr. Ron Davis, she led a wide range of efforts in scientific strategy, fundraising, research project management, conference organization, and collaborations.

In her current role at NYSCF overseeing scientific communications and outreach, she supports NYSCF scientists through science writing, communications training, collaboration building, and grants strategy. She leads efforts to disseminate NYSCF’s research through various communications materials and initiatives as well as scientific event programming, including overseeing the annual NYSCF Conference. Dr. Aiyar also oversees NYSCF’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts across an internal affinity group program, communications, events, health equity research, and grantmaking.

Kevin Sia, PhD
Program Officer for Medical Research | Doris Duke Foundation
As program officer for medical research at the Doris Duke Foundation, Kevin Sia manages and evaluates competitive grant programs and actively contributes scientific expertise and knowledge to build relationships with existing grantees.

Prior to joining the foundation in 2021, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sloan Kettering Institute of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has a research background in immunology and microbiology, particularly focused on vaccine immunity and antibiotic resistant pathogens.

He earned a Doctor of Philosophy in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, where he trained at the Emory Vaccine Center.

Stefania Forner, PhD
Director, Medical & Scientific Relations | Alzheimer’s Association