DPC Newsletter

Student Conferences Spotlight

Volume 7, Issue 3

Consortium News

BUILD Scholars present and win awards at 2022 SACNAS and ABRCMS conferences

By Hansook Oh

Students from across the National Institutes of Health Diversity Program Consortium (NIH DPC)’s BUILD programs attended two major research conferences this fall—the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM conference and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS).

Both conferences were hosted in-person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The SACNAS conference was held Oct. 27 to 29 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and ABRCMS was Nov. 9 to 12 in Anaheim, California.

SACNAS National Diversity in STEM conference

Emily Montes (right) with her mentor and CSULB BUILD PI Jesse Dillon, PhD, at the 2022 SACNAS conference.

The Puerto Rico Convention Center was filled with thousands of attendees from across the country for the three-day conference. The venue featured keynote addresses, workshops and poster presentations on cutting-edge research.

Celebrating and highlighting the local community’s cultural traditions is always an important element of the annual SACNAS conference, and this year was no exception. The opening ceremony kicked off with live music, dancing, drums and characters from Puerto Rican folklore. Through such activities, SACNAS conferences remind attendees that they can celebrate their own vibrant cultures while being members of the scientific research community.

For BUILD scholars, this conference gave them a chance to present their research in person and build their confidence as scientists. 

Emily Montes, a BUILD scholar from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), won an award for her poster presentation, titled “Assessing Impacts of the Huntington Beach oil spill on benthic invertebrate communities in Talbert Marsh.”

“Being in Puerto Rico surrounded by a diverse group of young scientists was inspiring,” said Montes, who will graduate from CSULB in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy. “I was nervous at first but once I was talking to my peers, I felt more confident. I also got to meet numerous people in similar fields and have meaningful conversations around research. This was also my first time at any conference, so when they called my name for the award, I was ecstatic and proud of myself.”

Fatima Herrera, a BUILD scholar from the ReBUILDetroit program at the University of Detroit Mercy, also won an award for her poster presentation on “Identification of the bacteriophage resistance mechanisms in the dental pathogen Streptococcus mutans.”

Herrera said she felt honored to receive the award and expressed gratitude to her research mentor and ReBUILDetroit mentor for their support and guidance. She reflected on the hard work she put in to grow as a researcher. 

“The long 30-hour weeks in my lab during the summer felt more rewarding than ever,” Herrera said. “And I think that's what it may be about. Long hours in the lab accompanied by fruitful conferences, sometimes rewarding results, and lifetime connections.”

ReBUILDetroit scholar Fatima Herrera presenting her research poster at the 2022 SACNAS conference.

Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS)

Thousands of biomedical researchers, including BUILD students from across the country, filled the Anaheim Convention Center from Nov. 9 to 12 for ABRCMS, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The DPC hosted a professional development session called, "How to BUILD Your Online Presence as a Scientist.” Around 200 conference attendees came to learn about best practices to implement across multiple social media channels to bring attention to their research, boost their professional reputation and expand their network, all while balancing security and privacy concerns.

Conference room at ABRCMS with a couple hundred people attending a session led by DPC staff.

The session featured pre-recorded presentations from DPC BUILD program alumni Angelica Alberto, DPT, Kamali Clora and Nashae Prout, who shared insights for students looking to build their professional “brand” as scientists on social media.

The session was facilitated by DPC communications staff Ben Andrews-Zapata, Hansook Oh and Christa Reynolds. The presenters also collaborated with the other communications specialists in the DPC. Videos of the alumni, slides and resources from the presentation are available on the DPC’s Enhance Science website.

The ABRCMS conference featured high-profile keynote speakers, including Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, who won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Mae Jemison, MD, a former NASA astronaut and current leader in the 100 Year Starship initiative.

In addition to keynotes, the conference featured networking opportunities, an exhibit hall with hundreds of representatives from industry, educational and government organizations, and a wide variety of professional and scientific seminars for students and program leaders.

Attending such a large, in-person conference could be intimidating for undergraduates, but Shandee Dixon, PhD, who is the Enrichment Lead and Career Mentor for the BUILD EXITO PLUS program at Portland State University, said that the EXITO students were well prepared.

“While it was overwhelming in the sheer number of conference attendees and sessions all happening at once, they supported each other by working together before the conference on getting their one-page CV and elevator pitches ready to go,” Dixon said.

BUILD students win awards

Several students also won awards at the ABRCMS conference. 

Kevin Gibbons, a scholar from the STEM BUILD program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), won an award for his oral presentation on “Investigating the Regulation of TAZ in Uveal Melanoma.” Gibbons said he enjoyed getting to present his research with so many researchers and he valued the opportunity to talk to representatives of prospective graduate schools. 

“Overall, being at a conference with thousands of other scientists—all with the same common goal—energized me and I’m excited to come back to UMBC and continue researching,” Gibbons said. 

Fellow UMBC STEM BUILD scholar Caroline Moore also received an award for her poster, “Stimulant Exposure Significantly Affects Food Preference in Wild-Type and Odr-3 Mutant Caenorhabditis elegans” in the Physiology & Pharmacology category.

Kevin Gibbons holding a sign that says “This is what a researcher looks like” at ABRCMS 2022

Carmen Hernandez-Perez, a scholar from the BUILD PODER program at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), won an award for her poster, called “Identifying Phage Receptors Using the Mixed Community Plaque Assay.” Her poster showcased research conducted at Harvard University through its Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program in the Harvard Medical School. 

CSUN BUILD PODER scholar Carmen Hernandez-Perez presenting her research at ABRCMS 2022

Hernandez-Perez said she was “shocked” when she heard the news and that it was a “rewarding” experience because it reflected not just her own hard work, but also the help of her peers, the BUILD staff and her mentors, Harvard professor Michael Baym, PhD, and CSUN professor Melissa Takahashi, PhD. 

“I feel like it's a reward not only for me but for everyone else in my lab, from both Harvard and CSUN, because I don't think I would have gone to the conference without people [who] were supporting me," Hernandez-Perez said.

"Dr. Takahashi was the one pushing me, and my mentor back in Harvard too. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have experienced the networking and my first poster presentation.” 

View the list of BUILD scholars who presented their research at the conferences below:

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM conference

SF BUILD: Lorenzo Ramirez

CSUN BUILD PODER: Renee Medina, Karina Barragan

CSULB BUILD: Emily Montes, Amber Simonpietri, Isabel Villafuerte, Adeline Rosales

UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS: Siria Jansen, Isaiah Perez, Frances Rangel

Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS)

UMBC STEM BUILD: Acha Akem (alumna), Senali Dansou, Kevin Gibbons, Amir Ledbetter, Caroline Moore, Gloria Ogordi, Precious Oyinloye, Tatiana Perez, Naafia Thangalvadi 

UAF BLAST: Tyler Baker-Chapman, Laura Ekada, Daphne Mueller, Shadrach Stitz

CSUN BUILD PODER: Megan Hampston, Oscar Juvera, Carmen Hernandez-Perez 

CSULB BUILD: Meleia Vyrak, Emily Aniya, Tammy Nguyen, David Quiroz, Isabel Ramirez-Flores, Natalia Shcherbakova, Annie Tong, Khanh Ngoc Tran, Nicholas Banuelos, Shannon Chaffin, Katrina Jensen

PSU BUILD EXITO: Meaghan Creech

ReBUILDetroit: Alexis Sleison, Nixon Garica, Fadi Koria, Ndeye Ka, Kenia Contreras, Najat Assaad, Haya El Dana

MSU ASCEND: Pamela Osseyi, Keyra Hall, Faith Hudnall, Ajeñee Williams, Kayla Mack-Easley, Alexis Carlon, Brooklyn Chaney, Emma Gudmundsson, Jadyn Giles

XULA BUILD: Scholars: Justice Austin, Jordan Campbell, Caleb Cook, Kalila Daveron, Jillian Harris, Camerin Kimble, Shannon May, I'kia McKay, Ebenezer Nyenwe; Technicians: Kiara Bornes, Aalliyah Celestine, Elijah Johnson-Henderson, Briya Kirksey, Meghan Mouton, Kymmia Petty

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New 'Become a Researcher' series highlights DPC members' research

By Hansook Oh

What does it take to become a researcher?

Five researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) answer this question in “Become A Researcher,” a new video series from Enhance Science premiering in 2023.

“Become A Researcher” is the second video series by Enhance Science, a visual media project produced by the DPC Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC) at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Enhance Science aims to visualize inclusive excellence in science, technology, engineering, math and medical science (STEMM) by telling the stories of DPC community members. 

The series spotlights researchers who are at different points in their scientific careers past undergraduate education. 

It features three alumni from the DPC BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) programs: Zak Peet, an alumnus from the BUILD PODER program at California State University, Northridge, currently pursuing a doctorate degree; and Cecilia Hinojosa and Juan Castillo, the first two BUILD alumni to earn a PhD. 

Also featured are Halaevalu Vakalahi, PhD, Dean of the College of Health and Society at Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) and the Principal Investigator (PI) for the DPC DaTA program at HPU; and Keith Norris, MD, PhD, a UCLA professor and the Executive Vice Chair in the Department of Medicine for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, who serves as the PI for the CEC. 

Watch the teaser for our “Become A Researcher” series at the Enhance Science website. Follow Enhance Science on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more updates on the series. 

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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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