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Bullet announcements, bioscience, diversity · Jun 15, 2023

Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month

Lisa Thompson, PhD, Senior Scientist/Program Manager, AIBS SPARS

This piece is one in a series of blog entries called “BioScience Bytes.” In them, authors provide commentary on topical issues, enlivening the sciences and making science approachable for all readers.

June marks National Immigrant Heritage Month, and as we celebrate this vital population of Americans, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the enormous sacrifices and tremendous contributions that immigrants have made to our nation, particularly in the field of biology.

American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is celebrating Pride Month by highlighting individuals, organizations, articles, & activities that are shining a light on LGBTQ scientific excellence.

American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is celebrating Pride Month by highlighting individuals, organizations, articles, & activities that are shining a light on LGBTQ scientific excellence.

As a first-generation English-American, I made a voluntary decision to emigrate to the USA when my daughter was a month and a half old, and arrived in March 1995 with a baby, cat, and two suitcases, not knowing what my future would hold. Many others are not as fortunate and escape to the USA from war-torn or gang-oppressed countries, such as my neighbors from the former Yugoslavia, who gained political asylum to the USA in the height of the Yugoslav wars. Whatever the reason for entry, we all have one thing in common––a deep-seated belief in the American dream, where we will find a better life and experience greater opportunities, not only for ourselves, but also for our future generations.

When arriving in America, first-generation immigrants experience the duality of assimilating into the values and ideals of American culture and society, while at the same time holding on to the the culture, belief system, family, and friends that uniquely shaped them. And we assimilate so well, whether it be as a first-generation college graduate, business owner, or laborer. What we all have in common is a desire to succeed and to contribute to American society and the economy.

As we at the American Institute of Biological Sciences invite you to celebrate National Immigrant Heritage Month, please take a moment to look around your place of work, home community, place of worship, or gym and really see the faces. If you notice a first-generation immigrant, take a moment to talk to them and learn about their unique journey to the USA and their reasons for moving here. Their history is gold and has a valuable place in our great nation, as it continues to evolve, diversify, and become more inclusive. Also, please reflect on the notable contributions made to the field of biology by first-generation American immigrant Nobel prize winners. These include:

  • Jewish Russian-American Selman Waksman, a microbiologist and biochemist, who discovered Streptomycin, the first effective antibiotic against tuberculosis;
  • Belgian-American Albert Claude, a cell biologist and physician, who pioneered a cell organism separation technique that led to important discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of cells;
  • Australian-American Elizabeth Blackburn, a biologist and physiologist, who discovered how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase; and
  • Armenian-American Ardem Patapoutian, a molecular biologist and neuroscientist, who discovered receptors for temperature and touch.

Find out more about our commitment to increasing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Acceptance & Accessibility (IDEA2) in the biological sciences.