Networking and Professional Development Events at SACNAS 2017

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Conferences such as SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference), aims to promote diversity in the biomedical field by providing the resources necessary to succeed in STEM. This three-day conference provides minority undergraduate and graduate students professional coaching opportunities, educational workshops, and networking opportunities to connect with expert mentors and supportive peers. Below are a few highlights of the many resources available to our BUILD students at SACNAS 2017.


Conversations with Scientists

Students connected with professionals working in their field of interest, through the University of Utah sponsored event, “Conversations with Scientists”. A total of 16 different career paths (varying from pharmacology to atmospheric sciences), were set up with 1-2 professionals at each table to provide feedback/advice to students.

Conversation with Scientists #SACNAS2017 — photo courtesy of Emiko Kobayashi


Student Poster Presentations

Selected undergraduate students were invited to present their scientific research to their peers, judges, and mentors. This gave the student researchers a platform to highlight their research and gain valuable feedback. The undergraduate and graduate students at SACNAS presented more than 1000 presentations. Judges recognized the top poster and oral presenters and awarded 117 students for their scientific excellence.

Student Poster Session #SACNAS2017 — photo courtesy of Emiko Kobayashi


NRMN Reception

NRMN Master Facilitators shared their commitment to mentorship through the National Research Mentor Network. Sonia Zarate, a program officer at Howard University and a Master Facilitator for NRMN, spoke about how she hopes NRMN will move towards focusing on empowering institutional changes in the future. "We've moved the needle, but we haven't moved it enough and part of the reason is that we are focused on the students, which we should do, but there's another aspect to it and that's the institutions. Our hope is that what we're bringing to the different institutions, is this idea of developing their students."

NRMN Reception #SACNAS2017 — photo courtesy of Emiko Kobayashi

The reception also provided additional information to those considering becoming a mentor. "NRMN focuses on growing mentors that are not only developing the next generation but also mentors that are culturally relevant and culturally sensitive." Dr. Maria Zavala points out that becoming an NRMN mentor is an "honorific position, one that is hard to get, but recognized."


NRMN Reception #SACNAS2017 — photo courtesy of Emiko Kobayashi

Women in STEM Reception

Texas A&M University hosted the Women in STEM open mic reception to celebrate the various ways female mentors have impacted the career development of the students at SACNAS. A new study by social psychologist Nilanjana Dasgupta and her Ph.D. student Tara C. Dennehy, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that there is a greater retention rate in STEM fields for students with female mentors (100% retention), as opposed to male mentors (18% drop out rate) or no mentors (11% drop out rate). (1) Young women in engineering majors felt a greater sense of belonging in the engineering field, more motivated and less anxious and more confident about their ability if they had a female peer mentor. Mentors are important but role models are even more important.

The open mic reception at SACNAS gave attendees an opportunity to share how they've been inspired by their female mentors. One speaker shared how her mentor saved her life when she was going through a difficult time struggling with mental illness. Another STEM young professional spoke about her deep admiration for her mother as her role model.

This reception provided a space for mentees to show gratitude for the impact their mentors had on them.


Entrepreneurship Essentials: Design Thinking for Scientists



At the 2017 SACNAS conference, there was not a shortage of opportunities for students to take advantage of. Providing the tools to succeed, this conference was flooded with useful resources from professional training, networking receptions and career building workshops. Throughout the three day conference, there was a total of 126 sessions.


One workshop that was particularly memorable and engaging was the Design Thinking for Scientist workshop led by Dr. Luis Martinez, Dr. Dorn Carranza, Dr. Asis Lopez, and Dr. Greg Villareal. Within the sciences, researchers have always utilized the scientific method to test their hypothesis. This workshop presented a new process that is rapidly becoming known as the Scientific Method 2.0. The method came from Human Centered Design and Engineering and is often referred to as ‘design-thinking’. The process involves these crucial steps; 1. Empathize with the problem. 2. Define the problem and develop a problem statement 3. Ideate as many solutions as possible in a short amount of time. 4. Prototyping 5. Test out the solutions.


Running through these various steps, it is very clear that ‘design-thinking’ can be applied outside of solving research questions. It can be applied to business endeavors, real-world everyday problems, and personal aspirations. Through ‘design-thinking’, we challenge our preconceived assumptions, use creativity to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to the problem and clearly communicate the ideas and possible solutions.

Entrepreneurship Essentials participants #SACNAS2017 — photo courtesy of dorn.carranza


1. Female Peer Mentors Help Retain College Women in Engineering. (2017, May 22). Retrieved December 18, 2017, from