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Marian Johnson-Thompson Recognized for Diversity Efforts

By Blondell Peterson
August 2005

Eugene Nester presents a plaque to Marian Johnson-Thompson
Eugene Nester, chair of the American Academy of Microbiology, presents a plaque to Marian Johnson-Thompson for outstanding service as chair of the American Academy of Microbiology's Committee on Diversity. (Photo provided by Marian Johnson-Thompson)

Marian Johnson-Thompson, director of Education and Biomedical Research Development, was recognized by the American Society for Microbiology for "outstanding service as chair of the American Academy of Microbiology's Committee on Diversity 2002-2005."

To get the initial appointment to the committee, Johnson-Thompson had to demonstrate involvement in diversity activities from a broad perspective.

She served on the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, a congressionally mandated committee that monitors diversity at the National Science Foundation. This 15-member committee consists of researchers and scholars from science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It consists of a broad, diverse group from academia, professional organizations, government and industry. The organization's most recent report to Congress is titled, "Broadening Participation in America's Science and Engineering Workforce."

"It's really important that our organizations reflect the diversity of the population," Johnson-Thompson said. "Unfortunately, we have a history in our country where this is not the case. We're slowly making progress." She noted that while women in graduate programs in science comprise almost 50 percent of those enrolled, women still have not broken the 'glass ceiling' in the field.

Johnson-Thompson implemented a listing of the number of participants in each category for underrepresented minorities in the Academy. "We are moving towards looking at the numbers as they existed when the Diversity Committee was initially established and what they are now," she said. "That data should be out within the next year."

Last year, Johnson-Thompson received the Alice Evans Award for her diversity activities promoting women in science. At NIEHS, she was also involved in establishing the first women's mentoring program for women scientists as well as postdocs. She said that program evolved into what is now known as the NIEHS Trainees Assembly."

Though she acknowledges some progress for women minorities in science, she expressed concern with the numbers for some minorities that are referred to as "underrepresented." Those include African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. "If we look at the progress that we've made as it relates to underrepresented minorities, the numbers are extremely bleak," she said.

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