Aggie Hero: Professor Jonathan Eisen

Jonathan Eisen, along with his mother, Laura, celebrate at the ADVANCE Award ceremony. (UC Davis)
Jonathan Eisen, along with his mother, Laura, celebrate at the ADVANCE Award ceremony. (UC Davis)

November 05, 2019

Posted by Tanya Perez

Perhaps the best way to sum up Professor Jonathan Eisen’s philosophy is to note his belief that “It is important to fix that which is easily fixable.” 

Eisen, who has appointments in the Genome Center, the department of evolution and ecology, and the department of medical microbiology and immunology, “uses his powers of national influence for good,” according to his Aggie Hero nominator. 

More specifically, Eisen has “advocated for women and people of color to be represented fully at national conferences, and organizations have listened and responded positively. He has been a solid ally for faculty who have experienced sexual harassment or bias at universities around the country.”

When asked why this is important, Eisen was emphatic.

“First of all, because there’s very clear evidence for both explicit bias (willful sexism or racism) as well as enormous amounts of implicit bias. If we just want to be fair, we have to be sure those biases don’t dominate conferences.”

Because, he continued, “Conferences are an incredible part of academic life, (due to the) networking, exposing your work, meeting important people in your fields.”

It’s also important, Eisen noted, “for the field to have diverse points of view shown.” There’s value for all in making sure “conferences have people from different career stages, backgrounds, economic groups, etc. It makes the conferences better.”

Eisen is proud that UC Davis has an “institutional-level commitment to fixing explicit and implicit biases. … It’s nice to be at a place where the chancellor, provost and deans recognize that implicit and explicit biases are real and want to do something about it.”

He also praised the “incredible array of leaders at every level — undergrads to faculty and staff — who also are doing things about this.”

Eisen continued, “We’re trying to actually fix the problems.”