Iowa State Representation Continues to Grow at SACNAS Conference by David Ortiz

03 Dec 2017 12:12 PM

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On the 21st of October, Bryan Juarez was recognized for giving the best graduate student oral presentation in Ecology/Evolutionary Biology at the national Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. The multidisciplinary national SACNAS conference attracted over 4,000 scientists from undergraduates to faculty and everyone in between, hundreds of universities, several government agencies, and private tech companies to Salt Lake City, Utah.

One of three undergraduates who attended the national conference summarized her experience: “SACNAS allowed me to not only broaden my scientific network, but it also gave me the opportunity to connect with many people. I was moved by speakers, motivated by stories, and encouraged that I am not alone” – Kaitlyn Murphy, graduating Senior in Biology.

ISU has had a SACNAS chapter for over four years, expanding the chapter size to 20 active members. The goal of the organization is to promote the involvement of all students in STEM, helping students learn about research opportunities, and offering personal/professional development workshops during chapter meetings every two weeks. This year the chapter sent eight students, six of which presented research (two graduate oral presentations, one graduate poster presentation, and three undergraduate poster presentations) receiving funding from multiple sources (Horticultural Dept.,IG, SACNAS travel award, and STEM Scholars). Six ISU faculty members also attended the National SACNAS conference. The graduate students that attended the conference came from Ecology and Evolution and Organismal Biology and Mathematics departments and the Environmental Science, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology interdepartmental programs.

At the conference faculty and students recruited the diverse attendees to pursue a graduate degree or summer undergraduate research opportunities at ISU. Funding and logistics support for attending and recruiting at the conference came from Interdepartmental Toxicology graduate program, Interdepartmental Genetics and Genomics graduate program and ISU Graduate College as part of their commitment to recruiting a diverse student body.

The conference is described by the chapter secretary, “As a Central American student I feel that I can represent and be supported as a Central American at SACNAS, as opposed to just being another generic Latino student at other conferences” - Kevin Quinteros, PhD student in Genetics and Genomics.

Photo of SACNAS Members at ConferenceBack row left to right: Michael Young, Bryan Juarez, Kaitlyn Murphy, Kevin Quinteros, and Corey Welch.  Front row left to right : Patrick Mendoza, David Ortiz, Daniela Flores, Tracy Heath, Gustavo Macintosh, Andrea Fondren

An undergraduate poster presenter at the national conference excitedly expressed, “The SACNAS national conference has an environment and energy that is unlike any other, it's difficult to not want to be a part of it! It energizes you and revolutionizes the typical definition of a scientist, showing you that anyone can be a scientist” - Andrea Fondren, Chapter Treasurer, Junior in Biology.

As the largest multidisciplinary and multiethnic STEM diversity organization in the country, SACNAS is arguably the best place to find talented underrepresented minority scientists from undergraduates to Postdocs. Several of ISU’s attendees were either recruited or have successfully recruited individuals to PhD or postdoctoral positions at the conference. ISU’s presence at this conference has increased each year and may continue to grow as ISU chapter President, Daniela Flores, is in the middle of an election for the graduate student representative on the National Board of Directors for SACNAS. If elected, Daniela will join ISU Chapter Co-Advisor, Dr. Corey Welch, who is already serving on the board.Personal and professional development are also major components to the success of SACNAS and its members, “The conference shows me both how far

I've come and what I aspire to be in my career as a scientist. Not only do I make invaluable connections with STEM leaders, but I also get to give back to this community that has been so influential in my career. The conference feels like a family and I leave with a renewed energy to work towards my career goal” – Chapter President, Daniela Flores, PhD candidate in Genetics and Genomics.

Students and faculty interested in learning more about SACNAS and the ISU Chapter meetings, please email Kevin Quinteros at The chapter meets every other Thursday through the Fall and Spring Semesters.

Club Spotlight     STEM, Latinx, Indigenous