BethAnn McLaughlin

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BethAnn McLaughlin
BethAnn McLaughlin 2018 Disobedience Awards at the MIT Media Lab.jpg
McLaughlin in 2018
NationalityAmerican
AwardsMIT Media Lab Disobedience Award
Academic background
Alma materSkidmore College
Academic work

BethAnn McLaughlin (1968- ) was an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Vanderbilt University who shared the "2018 MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award" with Tarana Burke and Sherry Marts for her leadership in raising awareness of "Me Too” issues in STEM institutions.[1][2] Her research at Vanderbilt focused on neural stress responses and brain injury. She was to lose her job on February 28, 2019 after losing tenure.[3] Her employment at Vanderbilt actually ended on July 8, 2019.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

McLaughlin was born in Boston circa 1968 and raised in St. Louis and New Hampshire.[5][6] She had an early interest in nature and science but was not as engaged in "formal science classes", in contrast to her brother who took to academic studies more readily. McLaughlin describes her brother as gifted, particularly in math, but the academic pressure "looked miserable" so she leaned more towards sports. During high school McLaughlin was involved with the school newspaper alongside working as a waitress.[5]

McLaughlin obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Biopsychology from Skidmore College in 1990, where she was a Dean's List Scholar. During this time she spent a year in Africa studying wildlife management which inspired her to advocate for nature through organising campus events for Earth Day; she credits the success of this event as the point when she became "...hopelessly commited to causing good trouble".[5] She obtained her PhD in the Neurological Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, where she found mentors in two MD-PhD scientists, neurobiologist and Parkinson's disease researcher, Marie Francoise Chesselet and Maria Erecinska, who studies energy metabolism in the mammalian brain.[5] After graduation, she continued her postdoctoral training with Elias Aizenman, a researcher who studies signalling processes in acute and chronic brain injuries, in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh.[5] As a postdoc she received a National Institutes of Health grant awarded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke's National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Training Fellowship in Neurodegeneration.[7] In 2002 she joined Vanderbilt University as a member of faculty.[8]

McLaughlin lives in Tennessee and has one daughter and one son. She enjoys biking and competing in obstacle races.[9][5]

Research[edit]

McLaughlin ran the McLaughlin Lab at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her research team studied how the brain responds to stress so that therapeutic solutions can be developed for acute and chronic injuries.[10] One aspect of this is looking at the circuits of cells and proteins to understand how they make decisions about whether neurons live or die. One example looks at mice which die very young due to a lack of an interacting protein called HSP70 which helps protect cells from stress. Such mice are unable to clean up mitochondria.[5] The McLaughlin Lab also looked into identifying new genes that control vulnerability to injury and the reasons on why cells die. Their research focused on stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and autism. Both in vitro and in vivo models are used to test clinical strategies; in the case of acute neurological disorders, McLaughlin focused on understanding cell loss post hypoxic and ishemic insults (often in cardiac arrest and stroke).[11]

McLaughlin has collaborated with researchers in physics and chemistry to study organoids for drug screening, cholesterol in the brain, and sensitive sensors for metabolic signalling.

Dr. McLaughlin's research has been featured on websites such as PubPeer [12] [13] and ForBetterScience [14].

Activism against sexual harassment in science[edit]

McLaughlin became an advocate to fight discrimination and sexual misconduct in STEM. She created the website MeTooSTEM to share stories in this area having already spoken about her experiences with being a witness for a Title IX case which she describes as "arcane, unfair...vicious..and there is zero justice at the end and zero transparency".[9] By listing abusers and speaking out, McLaughlin attempts to reduce the pressure on academics to self-investigate potential sexual harassers, such as "...vet[ting] your new boss through the whisper net to see if they have sexually assaulted someone because there is no public record of most of these things."[9]

The critical moment when McLaughlin decided to be involved in advocacy work was during a dinner with fellow academics where two professors asked her partner "who was on top during sex"; a joke aimed at the fact that McLaughlin and her partner were both scientists.[5]

McLaughlin started calling on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to set consequences for members participating in sexual assault or misconduct through petitions. McLaughlin received backlash from NAS members due to her criticism of Marcia McNutt (president of the NAS at the time) and the lack of affirmative change, in which McLaughlin responded, "We don’t need to think about this problem anymore, we need to get rid of [harassers] and stop honoring them and move onto the real problem of helping the female scientists whose careers have been affected, and to prevent more women from leaving science because of this. I refuse to engage with anyone saying 'it will be hard' but not actually doing anything about it."[9] She also brought together scientists and science advocates to ask National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stop funding individuals guilty of sexual assault and misconduct. This was a risky action for McLaughlin, given that her research was funded by NIH.[15]

In June 2018, McLaughlin launched a campaign on social media to stop the red chili pepper "hotness" rating for professors at RateMyProfessors.com. The campaign received nearly 4,000 signatures and RateMyProfessors dropped this rating within 72 hours.[16][9]

In July 2018, the Herpetologists' League revoked their Distinguished Herpetologist award to Richard Vogt, prompted by McLaughlin after researchers complained to her about offensive material in Vogt's acceptance presentation showing students in bikinis.[9]

In November 2018 McLaughlin used her social media presence to highlight efforts from university professors to bar a West Coast computer scientist from speaking at a conference because of known sexual harassment allegations. She also took up the cause of seven Dartmouth College students suing the school for lack of protection from the a culture of harassment and assault.[6]

McLaughlin (right) at the 2018 Disobedience Awards

In 2018 McLaughlin shared the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award with biologist Sherry Marts and founder of the #MeToo movement Tarana Burke.[17] She also received the Society for Neuroscience Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award for her work on the advancement of women in neuroscience.[18]

In an interview with the Journal of Cell Biology, McLaughlin asserts her belief that her involvement in advocacy has had negative impacts on her research, citing time spent away from the lab due to the long process that harassment cases undergo where safety is also of concern. She states "I’ve demonstrably lost promotions, funding, and students because I’ve pulled awards out of the hands of harassers."[5]

McLaughlin is currently transforming MeTooSTEM into a non-profit organisation that will advise scientists who are victims of sexual harassment.[6] Her advice to like minded scientists who have an interest in advocacy is to highlight the statistics at the end of talks, invite underrepresented minorities to tell their own stories, ask job candidates if they have been found guilty of Title IX violations, and "under no circumstances get shuffled off into a working group of committee to study the problem' as "Now it's time for action."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BethAnn McLaughlin, Ph.D. - Vanderbilt Kennedy Center People". vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  2. ^ "Tarana Burke, BethAnn McLaughlin, and Sherry Marts win 2018 Media Lab Disobedience Award". MIT News. Retrieved 2018-12-01.
  3. ^ WadmanFeb. 12, Meredith; 2019; Pm, 4:04 (2019-02-11). "This neuroscientist is fighting sexual harassment in science—but her own job is in peril". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  4. ^ https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/-metoostem-founder-bethann-mclaughlin-has-left-vanderbilt-66135
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j O’Donnell, Marie Anne; Infarinato, Nicole (2018-11-05). "BethAnn McLaughlin: Protecting neurons and women in science". J Cell Biol. 217 (11): 3769–3771. doi:10.1083/jcb.201810065. ISSN 1540-8140. PMID 30352946.
  6. ^ a b c Reporter, Deirdre Fernandes-. "#MeToo activist BethAnn McLaughlin is focused on scientists - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  7. ^ "BethAnn McLaughlin Biographical Sketch" (PDF). Retrieved 1 Dec 2018.
  8. ^ Snyder, Bill. "McLaughlin, Casagrande honored by the Society for Neuroscience". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Q&A: Scientist and Advocate BethAnn McLaughlin". The Scientist Magazine®. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  10. ^ "McLaughlin Lab - Welcome to the McLaughlin Research Team Site - Vanderbilt Health Nashville, TN". ww2.mc.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  11. ^ "Vanderbilt University School of Medicine". wag.app.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  12. ^ https://pubpeer.com/publications/774DC3D677CA9A9250D7F950F66093
  13. ^ https://pubpeer.com/publications/CC2D13FB7878465278A6430FB45600
  14. ^ https://forbetterscience.com/2018/12/06/western-blot-loading-control-libraries-and-beyond/
  15. ^ Lab, MIT Media (2018-11-27). "Announcing the winners of the 2018 MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award". Medium. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  16. ^ "RateMyProfessors.com Is Dropping The "Hotness" Rating After Professors Called It Sexist". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  17. ^ WadmanNov. 27, Meredith; 2018; Pm, 5:00 (2018-11-27). "Scientists share MIT 'disobedience' award for #MeToo advocacy". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  18. ^ Snyder, Bill. "McLaughlin, Casagrande honored by the Society for Neuroscience". Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 2019-01-14.

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