Amisha Abeyawardene is the host for the upcoming Edinburgh-based podcast, Melanin Memos: WoC in Science Podcast, who kindly gave The Student an interview. She is a third-year Biology undergraduate student and has been an active member of the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) community at the University of Edinburgh. She was also one of the organisers for Resisting Whiteness, a QTIPoC (Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour)-led conference addressing anti-racist action in the UK.
Why did you decide to start this podcast?
I’m coming to the end of my Edinburgh University journey and as most final year students do, I was thinking about life after graduation. There are very few PoC (Person or People of Colour) lecturers in Biology and I’ve never had a WoC (Woman or Women of Colour) lecturer so didn’t see a career in science as something I could aspire to. The lack of representation and constant micro-aggressions and dismissals from white lecturers left me feeling alienated. It was really out of frustration initially that I decided to seek out WoC scientists just to prove to myself they existed. The response was so heart-warming and reassuring. It was so refreshing hearing advice from women who I could actually relate to and were just all-round bosses. I want all WoC especially those studying science to know that they deserve to be here and they have a community backing them.
Representation is a big buzzword at the moment and it seems obvious to me that truly innovative scientific research requires a range of people coming from different perspectives to tackle issues in a critical way. I want to highlight the extraordinary work done by WoC, since historically our work has been overlooked. I also think it’s important for us to build our own platform to highlight research we deem important. This is crucial to ensure that the benefits of scientific advancement aren’t restricted to a fraction of society.
What kind of topics are you going to be covering?
Each episode will have one or two interviews hosted by WoC science students in Edinburgh. We’ll be discussing cutting-edge research done by WoC scientists locally in Edinburgh as well as globally in a range of science-related fields. Topics will include the challenges of navigating academic spaces as a WoC, career advice, the importance of representation and most importantly, self-care. There will also be a segment where people can tweet in their questions and our team of melanated science womxn (women and non-binary people) will be offering their expertise.
How are you choosing your speakers?
We already have a line-up of fantastic guests that I’m excited for. I’ve asked everyone on the team to reach out to any personal role models but also to actively seek out women who have come across their radar. I’ve found Twitter to be a great platform for finding women who care about similar issues to me and once you find one, you end up down a rabbit hole of people working in exciting new areas.
Who’s your target audience?
I hope WoC at the early stages of their careers find this podcast useful and are aware that there is a community out there. I’m basically making the podcast I wish I had when I was starting university. I’m also only just realising the importance of having a mentor, so I hope this can serve as a way to connect students and womxn at different stages of their careers.
What else do you want people to take away from the podcast?
I also feel like scientists need to be humanised in a way so hopefully, this will show that we aren’t always doing nerdy things, we are people too!
Image from Broesis via Pixabay