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UW student provides free services to minority students

'We are failing to support students with minority identities,’ said Chemical Engineering student, Christopher Deutschman
Christopher Deutschman
Supplied photo

University of Waterloo student, Christopher Deutschman is offering his expertise free of charge for students wishing to enter STEM-related fields - particularly for those who are traditionally underrepresented.

While working towards finishing his MSc in Chemical Engineering (Nanotechnology), he has set his sights on helping others through something he refers to as allyship.

“In short, I am offering free assistance to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) students who want help with scientific communication. This offer is aimed at students who consider themselves part of marginalized groups in STEM, including but not limited to racialized students, queer students, and disabled students.” He says he is open to helping anyone with a project, up to 20 pages. While the offer is not limited to Waterloo Region, he is most familiar with local academic practices and standards.

Deutschman says as a student with a minority identity, he embraced a role in advocacy necessary to his mental well-being.

He refers to a 2019 study, indicating that while Black students enter STEM degree programs at the same rate as any other racial group, they can be almost 20 percent more likely to divert into another field than white students. According to a 2018 study, students of sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, bi, or queer) are up to 10 percent more likely to divert from STEM.

“Across Canada, and internationally, we are failing to support students with minority identities. And while these statistics provide just a glimpse at the outcomes, they can’t convey the often-exhausting day-to-day experiences of many of these scientists and engineers,” he said.

“I'd like to make it really clear,” he said, “the attrition of minority students in STEM is not due to a lack of self-confidence or self-worth on the part of the students. Rather, it's that the educational system itself is hostile towards minority students.”

Instead of succumbing to the overwhelming burden of inequality, he chooses to be part of the solution. Deutschman says his father, a professor, bestowed his confidence. His grandfathers were also professors. “I have access to generations of academic knowledge that not everyone does, and I want to share that.”

During his academic career, Deutschman has published several journal articles, been granted research fellowships, and won poster and presentation awards.

He wishes to offer free help in the following areas:

  • Applying to a STEM graduate program
  • Applying for a student-level scholarship/fellowship
  • Applying to present at a conference
  • Writing a research proposal
  • Writing a journal article or scientific communication
  • Looking to contact a STEM prof and not sure where to start
  • Looking to join a research lab and not sure where to start

 

“My thesis work is on the development of novel and sustainably derived antimicrobial nanomaterials – in other words, making new products from eco-friendly materials, and using these products to kill harmful bacteria,” he says.

Deutschman held a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Canada Graduate Scholarship for his master’s studies and was awarded the doctoral version of the scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. In the fall, he will begin a Ph.D. program in Biomedical Engineering, also in nanomaterial development.

What has he learned through his advocacy for others?

“There are always new opportunities to listen, to support, to leverage your skills to help others. I practice allyship because allies have supported me in the past. After all, I want to support others in the present, and because I believe it is a right and crucial thing to do in our work towards a just future.”

Going forward, he hopes his allyship will inspire others with privilege to also look for ways to use their skillset and leverage to better the community.

“By taking the initiative ourselves, we open up doors that have been closed, maybe for generations. That in and of itself is incredibly powerful."

If you are interested in reaching out, Deutschman suggests reaching him through his Facebook page - just search for Christopher Dutch.




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Natasha McKenty

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