2022–2023 Diversity Fellows

Clare Canavan

I grew up in the D.C. area and am currently a fifth-year PhD candidate in the chemical biology department, co-advised by Dr. Dan Kahne and Dr. Andrew Kruse; I study enzymes in MRSA that confer antibiotic resistance. In undergrad, I worked with advocacy groups centering women in STEM, and now I’m one of the co-chairs of our graduate student union’s Feminist Working group. The work I’ve done to advocate for women and other marginalized students to have strong community, mentorship, and support has introduced me to amazing groups of people pushing to make a safer, more welcoming university space.


I think an essential part of being a member of a community is working to make it the best it can be, and centering diversity and inclusion is key to this effort. Providing students with a sense of belonging and safety is of utmost importance, and this requires active work towards understanding and celebrating our intersecting identities. I want to help the EDIB office in their efforts to create community, push for change, and support student groups and leaders that are already doing incredible advocacy work.

Esrah Du

I grew up in a small town in northeast Massachusetts. Inspired by a love of microorganisms, I pursued my undergraduate degree in biology at Simmons University. During my time at Simmons, I developed a tight network of supports in the LGBTQ+ community, both at Simmons and beyond. Supported by this sense of belonging, I pursued undergraduate research experiences that helped cultivate my love for studying the basic biology of parasites and their vectors which eventually led me to the Biological Sciences in Public Health PhD program at Harvard. I am now a second-year PhD student, jointly advised by Dr. Flaminia Catteruccia and Dr. Jeffrey Dvorin, studying the basic biology of how Plasmodium oocysts successfully grow and divide in the midgut of the Anopheles mosquito. This collaborative environment and the family I've been lucky to find within the Harvard community have reinforced my passion for ensuring that academia continues to grow into an inclusive and diverse place where everyone feels they belong.

I became an LGBTQ+-focused diversity and inclusion fellow because I firmly believe that fostering diversity and inclusion should be priorities within the academic community. As a queer and nonbinary individual, I have experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to balance your academic and queer identities, as well as the hardship and sense of isolation that can occur in spaces where your identity is not fully understood or accepted. I have been exceptionally fortunate to find many role models and peers in the LGBTQ+ community here at Harvard and I am eager to work with the LGBTQ+ community at GSAS to better advocate for students’ needs and help ensure that others can find the same sense of belonging. As a diversity and inclusion fellow, I hope to continue building on existing initiatives while pushing the boundaries of how GSAS can support its LGBTQ+ students, including those who may still be questioning their identity.

Akhil Thomas

I am third-year PhD student in South Asian religion/Comparative studies at the Committee on the Study of Religion. I grew up in Delhi and dearly miss the three-day long train rides to Kerala, on the southwest coast of India, where my family is from. As a first-generation college student, I studied philosophy for my undergraduate degree at St. Stephen's College, Delhi and worked with various student advocacy groups and nonprofits in the area. I came to the United States to study the relations between religious vision and social reformation at Yale Divinity School (YDS) in New Haven, CT. During my time at YDS, as the Presidents Public Service Fellow, I served at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) where I worked with Afghan resettled students and young adults helping set up and run summer schools.

I am a diversity and inclusion fellow because I believe that diverse and inclusive spaces, where students feel like that they belong, are foundational to academic life at Harvard. I have seen that students from underrepresented and underserved communities bear the heaviest burden in graduate school. My hope is that my work contributes to making space for a shared sense of belonging for students from such communities. I also hope to further EDIB’s mission by working together with affinity groups and student leaders to advocate for more resources and support.

Any GSAS student who is currently a G-2 or above, in good standing, and registered in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the 2022-2023 academic year is eligible to apply for one of these positions. The Diversity and Inclusion Fellows work within the Office of Equity, Diversity,...Read more