Research Assistant, Department of Brain Sciences
Exploring the Caribbean culture
Growing up in west London was quite strange as the area I'm from is not particularly multicultural. I was born in London to Caribbean parents - my dad is from Jamaica and my mum is from Dominica - and I remember there being only three or four African or Caribbean people in my year at school. This made me want to learn more about my culture because I wasn’t actively learning about it at school.
I never felt that I was different when I visited the Caribbean - there were people like me everywhere. It made me realise that I didn't need to conform or try and fit in when I was in London.
In London, there aren't a huge number of Caribbean festivals or cultural activities apart from carnivals. When I was younger my family and I visited the Caribbean every other year which is how I explored and learned more about my roots. During these holidays to the Caribbean my grandparents taught me about the way of life there and going back to visit has always reminded me to find happiness in the simple things in life.
Life in the Caribbean isn’t as busy as London, and you begin to realise the material things don’t matter. I never felt that I was different when I visited the Caribbean - there were people like me everywhere. It made me realise that I didn't need to conform or try and fit in when I was in London.
Music and mental health
I’m planning to use my skills and experience to give back to the Caribbean by working with psychiatric hospitals to improve their mental health facilities and be a part of mental health research.
Music has always been a big part of my culture and from the age of eight, I learned how to play and read music. Reggae and jazz music are inherent to the streets of the Caribbean and I think those strong influences have driven my own love of music. Over the years, I’ve played the clarinet, saxophone and keyboard. I want to someday marry my passion for music with research into its therapeutic effects on neurological and mental disorders.
I do think my culture and heritage impacts my time at work. In the African-Caribbean culture, it’s very common to have respect for other people, particularly hierarchically, and I take those values into the workplace. I think this has had a positive impact on my work as I’ve been able to learn so much from those around me.
I joined imperial as a Research Administrator but I am now a Research Assistant working in the Department of Brain Sciences. I’m planning to use my skills and experience to give back to the Caribbean by working with psychiatric hospitals to improve their mental health facilities and be a part of mental health research.
Noticing the lack of ethnic diversity at Imperial
I have only recently become aware that there are relatively few people from ethnic minority communities in my department. I feel as though my department is similar to the area I grew up in - it isn’t ethnically diverse. Until movements like Black Lives Matter caught my attention, the lack of diversity at Imperial didn’t stand out to me.
It’s obvious there's a lot of work that needs to be done to increase representation both at Imperial and more generally within STEM.
I realise that in most meetings, I am the only Caribbean person in the room. I have also been reluctant to include a picture of myself on my Imperial Professional Web Page because I am aware of the possible implications this could have on future job applications.
Since the Black Lives Matter protests gained momentum in the USA this year, I've become more interested in getting involved in networks that support ethnic minorities both at the College and beyond. I want to be involved and work with people to see what we can fix.
It’s obvious there's a lot of work that needs to be done to increase representation both at Imperial and more generally within STEM. Imperial has the potential to contribute to important work that helps to further diversity in science. I think the lack of diversity isn't Imperial's fault as such - a lot of it goes back to differing cultural expectations in childhood.
A lot of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds are encouraged to pursue careers in science, but often through vocational courses like medicine and nursing. More outreach from universities like Imperial can help to teach people about the different jobs and career paths available to them.
Gabrielle's shares her story as part of Shifting the Lens: a celebration of cultural diversity at Imperial.
This interview was edited by Corinne Tomsett and photographed by Jason Alden.