Benefits of Diversity in Research Teams
“Learning to work well with people from other cultures helps you develop new perspectives and approaches to your work. When we share our strengths with each other, it only benefits our research,” said Dr. Farzad Ferdowsi, FSU Alumnus and Post-doctoral Associate at Louisiana State University.
As Dr. Ferdowsi alludes, there are significant cultural, social, and academic benefits of working within a diverse research group. Not only do students develop important intercultural competencies that help them to better interact with other academicians across the globe, but by building diversity into research groups researchers can expect better outcomes.
FSU is a preeminent research university with over 2,000 international students and 300+ international visiting scholars and researchers from 120+ countries. International students and scholars contribute their unique perspectives daily to create a diverse, culturally rich learning environment.
The research group Dr. Ferdowsi was a part of at FSU was the Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS), which consisted of people from China, Vietnam, India, Iran, Morocco, Colombia, Austria, and the United States. Huawei Yang, another member of CAPS and international student from China who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, stated that the challenges of working on a multicultural research team prepare students for what comes after graduation by requiring respectful and productive collaboration with individuals who have different thoughts and communication styles.
“The benefits of working in a multicultural research team are achieved by embracing diversity,” said Yang. “I feel I am a more open-minded person, can place myself in someone else’s shoes, and have learned about fun parts of other cultures too. I think this is the main reason millions of international students come to the U.S. for their degrees; it is the only place that has such a diversified culture from all over the world, and I am grateful that FSU did such a good job in this perspective.”
Ferdowsi and Yang also said the key to success as a graduate student is to work with an advisor who is a skilled researcher, has had exposure to different cultures, and knows how to work well with each of them, as it directly affects the performance of the group.
“I worked directly under Dr. Chris Edrington at CAPS,” said Ferdowsi. “I admire him for the diverse group he’s built, and I think that he would be a great example of a faculty member who communicates well with individuals from differing backgrounds.”
Dr. Edrington is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, research associate at CAPS, and director of the Energy Conversion and Integration Thrust.
“I learned the importance of creating diversified groups from my advisor long ago,” said Edrington. “He found that the research he did benefited because his experiences with different cultures opened his mind to other possibilities. I also believe that it’s good for graduate students, as those who will work at an industry job in this field will be working with people from around the globe. From a personal perspective, I enjoy learning from other people and find it to be a fulfilling part of my job.”
Photo courtesy of Dr. Edrington. Back Row (L-R): Huawei Yang, Dr. Hesan Vahedi, David Gonsoulin, Dallas Perkins, Dr. Chris S. Edrington; Front Row (L-R): Dr. Farzad Ferdowsi, Gokhan Ozkan, Dr. Tuyen Vu, Behnaz Papari, Dr. Jim Stright, Fernand Diaz Franco