Aspiring Minority Scientists Glimpse the Future at National Conferences
Students from CSU Dominguez Hills who have a passion for the sciences attended the national conferences of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) in October in Salt Lake City and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). The conferences provided information on advanced degrees, research programs, funding and recruitment opportunities as well as networking and academic presentation experiences for the students in attendance.
Laura Robles, CSUDH dean of graduate studies and research, has been the program director of the university’s Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) - Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program since 1986. She says that conferences such as these are a great opportunity for students who aspire to careers in the sciences.
“Students are... developing networks that will serve them long into the future,” she notes. “Our programs have come full circle and we are getting our students placed in top doctoral institutions and faculty positions. At the meetings we just attended I saw several CSUDH alums who are in doctoral programs or are becoming faculty members and looking to recruit students.”
Steve Martinez, a senior majoring in chemistry, values the experience at academic conferences for the chance to develop skills and contacts in his future career.
“ABRCMS and SACNAS allowed me to network with people in the field that I'm interested in for graduate school, in academia and as well as industry,” he says. “I was able to meet with recruiters from universities from all over the country to find the graduate programs that would suit me best. ABRCMS also allowed me to present my summer research project that I conducted at [UC San Francisco], which gives me good practice on what's to come in graduate school.”
Current MBRS RISE students who attended SACNAS included biology majors Thania Bogarin, junior, Jorge Contreras, junior, Jazmyn Marquez, senior, and Danielle Ross, senior; psychology majors Sherica Bolden, senior, Leah Fortson, junior, and Denise Manquero, senior; and chemistry majors Paul Maldonado, senior, and Steven Martinez, senior. MBRS RISE alumni Onyeka Uzomah and Teresa Ramirez, both of whom are in doctoral programs at Purdue University and Brown University, respectively, also represented CSUDH. Along with Robles, biology professors Katherine Bates and Thomas Landefeld accompanied the students, whose travel expenses were paid by SACNAS.
Marquez says that “SACNAS is my favorite conference for undergraduates. It brings students from across the nation of various academic backgrounds and unites them with their passion for scientific endeavors.”
Maldonado presented a poster titled, “Theoretical Studies of Transport within Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” that he had created with his mentor, H. Leonardo Martinez, professor of chemistry. Marquez spoke on her poster, “Panhypopituitarism and Quality of Life in Women,” which she put together with the help of her mentor Dr. Theodore Friedman, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. Thirdly, Manquero presented “Beliefs about Diabetes Among At-Risk Latino Students: A Qualitative Study,” which she completed with her mentors, CSUDH psychology professors Maria Hurtado-Ortiz and Silvia Santos.
Robles and Landefeld accompanied Martinez, Cordale Johnson, senior, biology, Juan Vega, junior, biology and Renecia Watkins, junior, biochemistry to ABRCMS. The conference provided travel funds for two students, with up to $1,500 for travel, housing and expenses. Watkins presented her poster titled, “The Hormone-Dependent and –Independent Regulation of the Localization of p23 in Breast Cancer,” which she completed during summer research with Michael Garabedian, associate professor of microbiology at New York University. Martinez also presented his work on “Identifying Post-Translational Modifications in Histones of Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells Using Tandem Mass Spectrometry,” that he researched under the guidance of Alma Burlingame, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco.
The chance to work with doctors and researchers in the sciences propels students at CSU Dominguez Hills to seek their advanced degrees and continue to blaze new trails for minority students. Landefeld says that in his 20 years of attending conferences like SACNAS and ABRCMS, he has seen the events grow “into the premiere national meetings for minority students doing research, providing opportunities that the students rarely get through any other avenues.”
“ABRCMS provided me with a great opportunity to network and learn more about the opportunities for life after CSUDH,” says Watkins.
Martinez underscores the importance to students of having access to professionals in their chosen fields to look to as role models and mentors.
“These conferences also help boost one’s confidence level because the people that promote these conferences are current minority leaders in the science fields,” he says. “They are the ones that reach out to the students at a personal level to motivate us to not give up on our dreams as future scientists.”
- Tigress Briggs and Joanie Harmon