International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Jenan Kharbush ‘09
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated today, Feb. 11, by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. In recognition of the role women and girls play in science and technology, we honor one of our own making advances in the field.
Jenan Kharbush ’09 says she has a personal commitment to improving access to higher education and STEM careers for marginalized groups. And, she actively advocates to increase diversity in the science field.
Kharbush majored in biology and chemistry at Ripon College and went on to get a Ph.D. in oceanography from Scripps College. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, she was a founding member of the Earth and Planetary Science Department’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee.
She had noticed that members of the department were less than enthusiastic when she arrived and others had had similar experiences. This led her to help establish the committee to raise awareness and to work to reduce obstacles that contribute to the marginalization of particular groups in the earth sciences in general and the corresponding department at Harvard.
Her major contributions included working to get departmental support for the committee and running a workshop focusing on the sexual harassment of women in science.
At Michigan, she got involved in SciAll through Dr. Mike Gil. She met Gil during her SEA Semester, an off-campus environmental studies program, in which she participated while a student at Ripon. The main goals of SciAll, according to Kharbush, are to inspire and guide students on what it takes to succeed in STEM careers and to make the scientific process accessible to the broad public as well as groups skeptical of environmental science.
To get their message out, SciAll releases videos with personal stories to show what it is really like in the field and to show the human side of science to demonstrate the range of career paths and opportunities. Kharbush currently is the video production lead and is in charge of selecting which videos are put into production.
She says her experiences at Ripon College helped her to become a well-rounded person as well as introduced her to some incredible science role models. “I felt they were personally invested in my future success,” she says. “I was encouraged to seek out research opportunities early on, something that I probably would not have known about on my own.”
Kharbush was honored with a Ripon College Outstanding Young Alumni Award in June 2019.
Jillian Heidenreich ’22