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This is us...Adriana Lopez

This is us...Adriana Lopez

[photo of Adriana Lopez outdoors at the Queen's University Biological Staton]
Bernard Clark

Adriana Lopez at the Queen's University Biological Station

Adriana Lopez, PhD'17 (Biology)
Collections and Data Manager, Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS)
Volunteer, University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE)

At QUBS, among other responsibilities, Dr. Lopez oversees the natural history collections and the expansion of the digital database of the Fowler Herbarium, a collection of more than 140,000 specimens of vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.

Dr. Lopez, who is originally from Mexico, did her BSc at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla and her MSc at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Ecologia.

Q: What brought you to Queen’s?

“I always wanted to do a PhD abroad. And when I was finishing my master’s degree [in ecology and evolutionary biology], I went to an international conference in New York and I met Chris Eckert [Professor, plant evolution and population ecology] there and I thought, “I’d like to work with him!” I talked to him after about the possibility of doing a PhD with him, and he offered me some projects. I applied for a scholarship from CONACYT Mexico [Mexico’s entity in charge of the promotion of scientific and technological activities], got it, and that’s what brought me to Queen’s!”

Q: Why did you apply to work with UCARE?

“When I got here, back in 2007, I would say I was one of the very few international students in the biology department. And, although people were very welcoming to me, I found it very hard. Over the years, I’ve seen this transition from a purely white to a more diverse community, which is amazing. I thought, well, I’ve been here almost 10 years, who better than me can give an opinion about my own experience and what I’ve seen as a student and a teaching assistant?”

Q: Why does representation matter in terms of faculty and teaching staff?

“Representation matters from the point of view of a student feeling comfortable with expressing himself or herself, as well as in learning outcomes. We have two issues here; one is representation about gender and the other is race. In terms of gender, I feel like women go through different challenges in their careers than men. Full-time female faculty are still underrepresented in many disciplines. Female students need to have role models and more examples of leadership. 

“In terms of race, there are several reasons why having a diverse faculty and teaching staff is good for education. Students may benefit from having professors and teacher assistants with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds because it raises the value that students place on academic success. Students may also work harder if they feel like their teachers have high expectations of them. Racially diverse teachers may also be more culturally sensitive and less likely to be biased by stereotypes about their students, helping them feel understood and fostering meaningful interpersonal connections.

“In my experience as an international student – you need to realize what it means to leave everything behind and start from scratch in a whole new country, to make new friends, to start a new community – and also to have an accent! – it’s very difficult. And that’s on top of all the academic demands!

“It also gives students who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and meet people from other cultures the chance to see that we are all the same." 

You need to realize what it means to leave everything behind and start from scratch in a whole new country.

Q: What are your priorities for your work with UCARE?

“First of all, establish the centre [for racialized students, one of the PICRDI recommendations]. That’s a big step. Because that’s going to initiate the movement across campus.

“Queen’s is becoming more diverse. More people from different backgrounds and races are being incorporated in staff and in faculty; there are more international students from many different places. So I think this has kind of been taken care of. What I am not entirely sure has been taken care of in terms of making the culture more accepting, raising awareness among our student community, and giving a space for those minorities to find somewhere they can find help and feel support.

“I think perhaps one of the first steps, in the already diverse community of students that we have, is to give them more tools so they can thrive.”

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 3-2018]