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David J.Asai David Asai will deliver the first Ambrose Jearld Jr. Lecture on Diversity and Inclusion on July 20 in Woods Hole. Asai is the senior director of science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Photo credit: Paul Fetters Photography

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July 7, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

Woods Hole Diversity Initiative to Present First Ambrose Jearld Jr. Lecture July 20

The first Ambrose Jearld Jr. Lecture on Diversity and Inclusion will be held on July 20 at 3 p.m. in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium. Sponsored by the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative and the Woods Hole Diversity Advisory Committee, the lecture on “Inclusive Excellence in Science: Race Matters” will be given by David J. Asai, senior director of science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

The lecture is named in honor of longtime NOAA Fisheries employee Ambrose Jearld, Jr. for his work in making Woods Hole a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community. Jearld retired from NOAA Fisheries Service in September 2016 after 38 years of service at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, most recently as Director of Academic Programs.

Jearld has been active in the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative since its founding in 2004, serving as chairman of the Diversity Advisory Committee and as the founding director of the Partnership Education Program (PEP), a project of the Diversity Initiative. PEP is a 10-week summer internship program that brings 16 students from minority groups that are underrepresented in marine and environmental sciences to Woods Hole each summer for a month-long course and 6 - 8 weeks of research on individual projects at the six science institutions in the village.

David Asai grew up in Hawaii on the island of Maui and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in biology from Stanford University, and a PhD in biology from the California Institute of Technology. He held two postdoctoral appointments, the first at CalTech and the second at the University of California Santa Barbara, before beginning a career as a cell biologist.

Asai will discuss the difference between diversity and inclusion, how race matters, and the benefits of a diverse scientific community in finding creative solutions to difficult problems.

Asai joined the HHMI staff in 2008 and directs undergraduate and graduate programs that include institutional grants to colleges and universities, individual grants to HHMI professors, research fellowships to undergraduates, graduate and medical students, and the HHMI’s Science Education Alliance. He also directs programs that provide strategic grants to organizations that support science education, including advanced national lab courses, pre-service K-12 teacher development, and faculty diversity training workshops.

Prior to joining the HHMI staff, Asai was head of Biological Sciences at Purdue University and a faculty member for 19 years, and spent five years at Harvey Mudd College as the Stuart Mudd Professor and Chair of Biology. Before closing his lab in 2010, Asai’s group studied the structure and functional diversity of dyneins - motor proteins - in sea urchins and the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila.

He serves on several advisory committees, including: the Interdisciplinary Teaching About Earth for a Sustainable Future (InTeGrate) National Science Foundation (NSF) STEP center; the University of Delaware NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project; the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology; the Understanding Interventions project; the Committee on Opportunities in Science of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Research Enhancement for BUILDing Detroit; the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee of the Director’s Working Group on Diversity; and the Children’s Opportunity Fund of Montgomery County, Maryland.

Asai previously served as a member of the boards of trustees of the National PTA and the Higher Learning Commission-North Central Association, and on the BIO Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation. He is an elected member of the Purdue Teaching Academy and was inducted into Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers.

The Ambrose Jearld, Jr. Lecture will be given every summer in Woods Hole by invited scholars, scientists, authors and others who can challenge the status quo to bring perspective, knowledge and expertise to the subject of building a more diverse and inclusive community.

Jearld devoted much of his career to fostering NOAA's goal of maintaining a workplace in which all people are respected as individuals and valued for their contributions. His work with NOAA, higher education institutions (especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions) has helped make oceanography and marine biology more accessible to a diverse body of students and research faculty.

Participating institutions in the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative are the Marine Biological Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center), U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Sea Education Association.

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(File Modified Jul. 10 2017)