Profiles in Diversity: Dora Mwangola
Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology
Dora never thought she would work with insects, ever. She stumbled into our field. During her Freshman year, she took a Zoology course that made her kind of interested in insects, but she was committed to microbiology and biochemistry. However, during her internship at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust, she worked in a lab that reared mosquito colonies and developed an interest in working on arthropod vectored disease. Despite whetting her interest, her Master’s research was not at all entomological. The real eye-opener came because her Master’s program required her to participate in a field project, which was under the direction of a graduate student. Dora accompanied this student to the field to study some tree-feeding weevils and she found this to be very interesting and asked questions about insects incessantly. From that point on, Dora was committed to learning more about insects.
Dora joked that she didn’t know she was black until she moved to South Africa. Until that time, she did not know that race was such a major thing, imbued in the culture and affecting all social interactions. She feels that it is even more pronounced in the United States even though her experiences are tempered by being mostly in academic social circles. Nothing is overt, but when some people don’t understand her, they respond by shouting or speaking more slowly, She also confided that, like many of us, she sometimes lapses into imposter syndrome, where she starts to feel that she is not deserving and does not belong. However, she uses behavioral strategies to mitigate these feelings by focusing her efforts to learn from the amazing people she gets to interact with. Clearly, we all can learn something from Dora.
February 17, 2021