Spotlight featuring Professors Kirsten Turlo and Diana Rigueur

Meet Professors Kirsten Turlo and Diana Rigueur, creators of Biomedical Research Minor 1A: Science in Your Time! Now in its second year, Biomedical Research Minor 1A: Science in Your Time fulfills a Life Science GE (lecture) and a Diversity Requirement. The course can also be used to fulfill a requirement for the Global Health minor. Students completing the course will have a better idea as to where bias occurs in academia and medicine from training through faculty appointments, funding, and publications. Professors Turlo and Rigueur’s course helps inform students so when the students listen to their colleagues discussing topics of race and racism, they can speak from a position of knowledge. They can listen with empathy and have the information to connect on many levels around concerns of diversity in STEM. They will be able to think critically about the sources they read and to find primary sources behind laymen materials on science. Students will have practiced investigating bias that comes from authors and speakers and how to navigate those bias to get to the data and interpret it for themselves. Ultimately, Professors Turlo and Rigueur hope students completing the course will be more prepared to engage in scientific discourse and on racial disparities in STEM.

Bio Med Research 1A: Science in Your Time is also unique because Professors Turlo and Rigueur cover racial disparities in faculty and medicine. Professor Turlo shares, “Rather than focusing on a lack of representation in research studies or health disparities, we are looking at the people doing the science.  We talk about the training process and biases that affect diversity.  Then we delve into the latest science.  Currently content focuses on exon skipping, specifically, a treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. After we understand some of the extensive history of RNA-altering treatments, we discuss the science and data behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  We review the evidence behind successful treatments of covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as well as the data on ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and why they are not recommended treatments.”

The reactions from students in the course have also been overwhelmingly positive. Listed below are shared testimonials from three students and the impact this course has made on their development:

  • “The course material was something I felt all people would benefit from learning….”  
  • “The professor is great at explaining complex subjects.  Evaluating data and thinking critically about medical research seemed simple in the class.”  
  • “I am still very fortunate to have been in her class because I think what she is teaching in the class is critical and so valuable to learn and educate others about.”

In the future, Professor Turlo would like to increase course enrollment and flip the course to allow for more in class content discussion. In addition, she’d like to add more writing so the course may qualify for the GE writing requirement. On behalf of the CEILS team, we are excited to see what the future holds and how the course will continue to evolve and impact students’ education and future careers.