A path to professorship

After a stint in the President’s Postdoctoral Fellows Program, A. Kelly Lane joins CBS faculty ranks with inclusion in mind.
March 20, 2023

The draw to Minnesota was pretty simple. After completing her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Georgia and a postdoctoral position at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, A. Kelly Lane saw a unique chance to further her career at the U of M. 

“The Biology Teaching and Learning Department here at the U of M has a great reputation in my field,” she says. “The opportunity to have a faculty position in that department, even if it wasn’t immediate, was impossible for me to pass up.”

Lane started in BTL in 2020 through the President’s Postdoctoral Fellows Program, a U of M initiative initially launched by the University of California system, to bring in a more diverse pool of postdoctoral associates to campus. This effort aims to not only bring in postdocs with broader experiences and viewpoints historically underrepresented in higher education, but also gives a chance for departments to potentially hire some of those candidates in as faculty. 

Case in point, A. Kelly Lane. Now as a full-time faculty member, Lane is able to continue working on her research efforts focused on improving equity and inclusion biology curricula.

“I aim to showcase areas in biology where we teach the subject in both an exclusionist and biologically inaccurate way,” she says. “For example, I have one research project focused on how we teach sex and gender in undergraduate biology courses. We find that there are many narratives promoted in biology courses that reinforce essentialist and binary ideas of sex and gender.”

In addition to advancing her research efforts, stepping into a faculty position means new challenges for Lane.

“The main changes in my new position were adding postdoctoral scholars to my research group and adding teaching to my list of responsibilities,” she says. “From the very beginning, my colleagues treated me as a peer and taught me about how to function as a faculty member in this space. So, while it is more responsibility, it has felt like a gradual and natural transition.”

While adding more work to her plate, Lane appreciates these roles. Her experiences as a student and a postdoc helped shape her mindset into the type of teacher and mentor she aims to be in CBS. 

“I aspire to create a lab environment where trainees feel that they can come through the door as their whole and authentic selves,” she says. “I want to support students and postdocs and watch them acquire their dream jobs and have the emotional, organizational, professional, and research skills to manage those positions with integrity and clarity. I really do believe that I have my dream job right now and I just want to spend the rest of my career helping make this environment more welcoming and accessible to others and to help my trainees find those dream jobs too.”

— Lance Janssen