The National Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Conference was organized by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans (SACNAS). SACNAS is an inclusive organization with over 46 years of experience promoting, from college students to professionals, the attainment of advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM. SACNAS serves approximately 6,000 members and a larger community of 20,000 people total with 115 SACNAS student and professional chapters throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
As the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, the 2019 SACNAS Conference equipped, empowered, and energized participants on their academic and professional paths in STEM. Hawaiʻi, the most ethnically diverse state in the nation, was selected as the site for the 2019 SACNAS Conference. “The SACNAS conference [was] fully aligned with Hawaiʻi for partnering with SACNAS in the essential work of making the scientific enterprise diverse, equitable and inclusive,” said SACNAS President Dr. Sonia Zárate.
Throughout the SACNAS Conference, undergraduate, graduate, and professional attendees were immersed in cutting-edge scientific research and professional development sessions, heard from motivational keynote speakers, visited the Graduate School & Career Expo Hall, attended multicultural celebrations, and partook in an inclusive and welcoming community of peers, mentors, and role models. This year’s sessions were led by scientists of color, Native Hawaiian, and indigenous scientists across STEM disciplines, and sessions included topics such as the effects of climate change. It also focused on indigenous and western sciences entwined together to add noteworthy value to the understanding of STEM subjects.
Manager Alexandra Ambrico was selected as a mentor judge for the 2019 SACNAS conference poster sessions, providing positive mentoring and constructive feedback to student presenters. “Listening to undergraduate researchers present their data, many at their first national conference, I could feel the excitement and drive they had to solve their scientific questions,” remarked Alexandra. NIH OxCam alum, Dr. Juan Pablo Ruiz, presented “Storytelling: Bringing Your Authentic Self to Work” with Drs. Brian Castellano and Sonia Zárate. “Coming to SACNAS for the first time, especially as a Postdoc focused on advocacy issues, was an incredibly empowering experience,” stated Dr. Ruiz. “To find myself surrounded by other people, from undergraduates to faculty, who are as enthusiastic about science as they are about challenging the status quo was uplifting, and a reminder of why I do the work that I do. The ability to present my guidelines for departments wishing to improve their mentoring and training climates was an incredible experience, and I consider it a huge privilege to have been able to witness and share in the experience of a Powwow with Native scientists celebrating their cultures and identities.”
Dr. Ruiz graduated from the Program in 2018 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate studying Early Career Researcher Mentoring and Wellbeing at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He is also the President of Future of Research, a non-profit that champions, engages, and empowers early career scientists with evidence-based resources to improve the scientific research enterprise.
The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program was represented at the SACNAS conference, which included over 5,000 attendees.