Advancing Diversity in Aging Research at UC Berkeley

STEM with a Story

Cal-ADAR equips underrepresented UC Berkeley undergraduates with quantitative research skills and research experiences in demography of aging, which is officially a STEM subject. The program offers participants financial support for up to 2 semesters, a paid summer internship, and mentored research experiences. Trainees also attend a seminar on applying to graduate school and professionalization skills, and at least one national conference. They have the support of Director, Assistant Director of Cal-ADAR, and usually a GSI who provides research support during the semester. Ultimately the goal is to encourage trainees to attend graduate school in a related topic of research and become professional researchers inside and outside academia.

Unlike many social science programs, Cal-ADAR gives trainees marketable skills that are immediately useful upon graduation, such as data analysis, statistical software, presentation experience, and more. Unlike many other STEM fields, Cal-ADAR offers a set of immediately relevant social problems and issues to study, so students find it personally satisfying. We call it “STEM with a story.“

Cal-ADAR is funded by the National Institutes of Aging (R25AG047848) and therefore students focus on aging research. Topics for research are varied, and include questions such as: Will Mexican immigrants return to Mexico to retire? How will immigration policy affect intergenerational relationships? Should immigration be accelerated to keep the population young? What are the long-term effects of mass incarceration on families in later life? What is the effect of living with grandparents or other kin on adult outcomes? To what extent is lower accumulation of retirement assets through savings and intergenerational transfers among all the underrepresented groups a function of education and labor force participation, culture or family structure? What is the relationship between longer life expectancy for disabled persons and active life or dependent life expectancies?

Few people think they want to be a demographer when they “grow up” but perhaps they should. People have heard of ‘demographics’: Demography is both fundamental and applied. Demographic – or population – research is intellectually satisfying, can help solve social problems, has many different career tracks, and can be deeply meaningful. It uses statistics as tools for exploration, akin to a detective needing a magnifying glass in order to see the details. Most people really like using statistics in demography, even if they couldn’t quite see the point in their statistics courses.

ADAR Summit:  Another feature of Cal-ADAR is the ADAR Summit meeting, held annually and supported by an NIA conference grant, R13AG066389. In this meeting, scholars from all the ADAR programs, along with their directors, gather to share research and other experiences, and learn about being developing one’s career.  This year, 2021, the plan is for a hybrid meeting, held in Phoenix AZ on November 9-10, 2021. Details are forthcoming.

The 2020 Program can be downloaded here: ADAR SUMMIT PROGRAM_3Nov2020.pdf.