Author: Dr. Sarah Wong | Category: Career Development | GSBS Alumni | Meet The Researcher | August 25, 2015
Increasing diversity in STEM has always been important to
me, but I was rather unaware of how to go about doing it until I arrived at UT
Health Science Center San Antonio.
At UTHSCSA, I met Dr. Nicquet Blake, who is
a source of inspiration for many underrepresented minority (URM) students at
She made an effort to make sure every URM student felt included
through a variety of ways: from recruiting URM students from local universities,
to hosting a URM luncheon for students throughout the graduate school to come
together at the start of every year, to obtaining funding for URM students.
Dr. Linda McManus was also instrumental in opening my eyes to the different
opportunities that were available to minority students. I attended her weekly F-Troop sessions while preparing my application for my F31.
She suggested I
join a few professional societies to strengthen my application and to help me
network. One of her suggestions was the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
I had never even
heard of SACNAS until I met her! When I started learning more about SACNAS, I
saw a need for a SACNAS chapter at UTHSCSA.
I started the chapter along with Anel
Lizcano and Cristina Rohena, both of whom graduated from UTHSCSA and are now
postdocs in the IRACDA program at UCSD.
Dr. Blake agreed to be our
sponsor, and we began recruiting other students throughout the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to join.
Recruiting was hard work, but we managed to
find a few very dedicated individuals to join. After Anel, Cristina, and I
graduated; we were very glad to see that the SACNAS UTHSCSA was still thriving
in our absence.
SACNAS has remained a major part of my life and career
throughout my graduate and postdoctoral studies. I recently attended the SACNAS Summer Leadership institute, which is a wonderful initiative to give
underrepresented minority scientists at the postdoctoral, early- and mid-career
levels the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills through leadership
development planning and networking.
Everyone who attends the Summer Leadership institute has the same
ultimate goal: to increase diversity in STEM, thus a strong network among
participants is formed. I encourage every eligible individual to apply for
the SACNAS Summer Leadership institute. I had no idea what to expect when I applied, but the experience
was more than I could have hoped for. I now feel connected to not only this
year’s cohort of SLI participants, but am connected to all of the participants
before me as well.
I am currently a postdoc in the IRACDA program at UT Austin.
This program is great in that it combines research with teaching and mentoring
experience. The teaching component allows us as postdocs to go to a partner
institution, which in our case are local liberal arts universities, to teach
(or team-teach) a course over a semester.
The greatest part about this is that it allows me to be a
role model to undergraduate students and gives me the chance to inform these
students of the opportunities available to them that they may otherwise never
I attended a small liberal arts university for my undergraduate
studies, and while I absolutely loved the experience, there are many things I
wish I had gotten to experience as an undergraduate, SACNAS being one of them!
I'm hoping to encourage students to start their own SACNAS chapter at our
I also hope to have some of my students attend the SACNAS National Conference. This conference is geared towards undergrads and is a
perfect opportunity for students to showcase their research across a variety of
different science disciplines.
Not attending a SACNAS conference is one of
my greatest regrets as an undergrad. I didn’t know about all of the
opportunities it would provide, from allowing attendees to strengthen their
presentation skills, to the great networking opportunities.
In the fall, I will be attending the Compact for Faculty Diversity's Institute on Teaching and Mentoring for the fourth time.
originally invited to attend the Institute after receiving the Ruth L. Kirschstein
National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote
Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31) from the NIH National Institute of
General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and being designated an NIH Bridges Scholar.
One of the really great aspects of the Institute is the
opportunity to invite your mentor to attend as well. I find this particularly
important for mentors who are not members of the underrepresented minority who
may not realize the struggles and prejudices that their URM students may face.
Some of the Institute's sessions on mentoring focus on this issue, and allow
the faculty who attend them become better mentors to URM students in turn.
As a graduate student, I found the Institute to be
incredibly useful. They have a variety of sessions for students, postdocs, and
professionals at every level.
The Institute made me realize the importance of
networking. They even provide you with your own business cards to hand out to
recruiters (or anyone you choose)!
The Institute on Teaching and Mentoring is
an invite-only event for SREB-State Doctoral Scholars, NIH Bridges to the
Professoriate NIGMS-MARC scholars, NSF Alliance for Graduate Education and the
Professoriate scholars, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation scholars and Ronald E.
McNair Program scholars. Students interested in attending should apply for the FASEB
This year, the Compact for Faculty Diversity is sponsoring a
new project in addition to the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring: the Compact
for Faculty Diversity Research Mentoring Institute (CFD-RMI).
This project is
sponsored by the NIH National Research Mentoring Network (more information
about the CFD-RMI can be found here). I
am thrilled to be participating in this event, and hope to further expand on my
knowledge of teaching and mentoring through this opportunity.
As for the future, I plan to always work to increase
diversity in STEM, though my next career moves will the largely dictated by my
My husband is a pilot in the Air Force and our next
assignment is actually in Japan. I'm thrilled for the opportunity to live
abroad for a few years, and plan to continue to work towards my goal of
increasing diversity in STEM in the US through writing, blogging, and
I feel that science is such a global community these days that I
can still reach my goals even from the other side of the world!
This article is part of the "Meet The Researcher" series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
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