By Hansook Oh
Undergraduate research trainees in the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) participated in two conferences this fall — the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference in Portland, Oregon, in October, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Arizona, in November.
Attending these conferences has been a tradition for trainees participating in the DPC’s BUilding Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) programs, which support undergraduate students pursuing biomedical research degrees at 10 institutions across the U.S.
SACNAS and ABRCMS are often the first scientific conferences that BUILD trainees experience, either as attendees or presenters. Students get the chance to develop their presentation skills, learn about resources and opportunities, and find belonging in the research community by expanding their networks.
Connie Tran (left) with two other BUILD EXITO program trainees at the 2023 SACNAS conference.
For Connie Tran, a biology major at Portland State University (PSU) and trainee in the BUILD EXITO program, attending SACNAS for her first scientific conference was an affirming experience.
“As I walked into the convention center, I immediately felt like I belonged there, where there were so many people coming from the same backgrounds and identities as me,” said Tran, who is also on the pre-medicine track and in the University Honors College at PSU.
“This is one of the very few times where I felt like I could combine two things: my identities and my love for STEM. I am so thankful for SACNAS for making such a welcoming space to so many.”
Destinee Unique Lewis, a BUILD trainee in her fourth year majoring in biology at San Francisco State University, had her first conference experience at ABRCMS. She said it marked a significant milestone in her academic journey.
“Initially uncertain about what to anticipate, I was pleasantly surprised by the profound impact it had on both my academic and personal growth,” Lewis said.
“The experience proved to be invaluable as I navigated through the intricacies of academic discourse and networking. Interacting with fellow scholars and like-minded individuals broadened my perspective and fueled my passion for research.”
SF BUILD scholar Destinee Unique Lewis (right) presents her poster to a judge at ABRCMS 2023. Photo courtesy SF BUILD.
Lewis presented a poster on research she conducts through the Girlx Lab at the University of California, San Francisco, where she focuses on sexual and reproductive health in the Black adolescent community. She said that although she did not receive an award for her presentation, the opportunity provided a platform to showcase her work, receive constructive feedback and engage in insightful discussions.
“The experience of sharing my research and being part of such a dynamic intellectual environment was a personal triumph, reaffirming my commitment to academic inquiry…,” Lewis said. “Overall, ABRCMS was a catalyst for my academic growth, fostering connections and presenting opportunities that I consider as invaluable rewards in themselves.”
Several BUILD trainees who won presentation awards at ABRCMS shared about their experience on social media.
From left: UMBC STEM BUILD trainees Fuwaiz Khan, Andrew Ocinar, and Elana Frazier at ABRCMS 2023.
Andrew Ocinar, a trainee from the STEM BUILD program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, won a recognition award for his oral presentation in developmental biology and genetics. Ocinar shared about his positive experience at ABRCMS on LinkedIn.
“During my four days at the conference, I gained valuable knowledge about navigating research both as an undergraduate and as a prospective MD/PhD applicant. I’m thankful for all the guidance those at the conference were able to offer,” Ocinar wrote. “On top of presenting, I was able to connect to many of the top research institutions in the U.S. and learn about the programs they offer.”
Ocinar expressed his gratitude toward winning the award and shared that the experience was very influential.
CSUN BUILD PODER trainee Pablo Segundo in front of his poster at ABRCMS 2023.
Pablo Segundo, a trainee from the BUILD PODER program at California State University, Northridge, won an award for his presentation titled "Implementation of CRISPR-Cas System to Engineer Native Bacteria as Live Bacterial Therapeutics.”
His innovative approach to using CRISPR-Cas System addresses challenges in minimizing unintended consequences, paving the way for more precise microbe engineering.
“I had the opportunity to present at ABRCMS in Phoenix, Arizona, and it was a remarkable experience,” Segundo shared in an Instagram post published by BUILD PODER. “Networking with fellow scientists and sharing my summer research from UCSD was truly inspiring. Grateful for the award—it's moments like these that fuel my passion for science!"
Follow the DPC on Instagram to see more photos from the ABRCMS and SACNAS conferences.
SPAD & DPC DaTA
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.