Eleven students from the Minority Biomedical Research Support program (MBRS) and the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program at California State University, Dominguez Hills attended the 2010 national conference of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), which took place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 in Anaheim.
MBRS students in attendance included senior psychology majors Vanessa Black, Esbeyde Garcia, John Gibson, and Monique Turner; Ashley Martin, senior, biochemistry; Brittany Tillman, senior, biology; Destinie Thompson, freshman, biochemistry; Kumar Tiger, junior, biology; and Ludivina Vasquez, junior, psychology. The MARC cohort was represented by Kristie Gordon, senior, sociology, and Erika Torres, senior, psychology. Nine students received SACNAS travel scholarships to cover their hotel expenses.
Dr. Laura Robles, interim dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and Dr. H. Leonardo Martinez, chair of the chemistry department and program coordinator for the MARC and MBRS programs at CSU Dominguez Hills, attended the conference with the students. President Mildred García attended a VIP breakfast on Saturday morning and delivered an address of welcome.
Robles, who is the university’s MARC/MBRS program director and a former member of the SACNAS board of directors, Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships, & Civic Engagement, and Ben Wolf, a Native American student majoring in liberal arts at CSU Dominguez Hills, served on the local organizing committee for the conference and arranged for a traditional Native American pow-wow to entertain attendees on Saturday evening.
Three students presented their research at SACNAS. Esbeyde Garcia presented a poster on “Technology and Emotional Involvement,” which she researched under the guidance of Dr. Mark Carrier, associate professor of psychology. Kumar Tiger delivered “Development of the dorsal appendages in Drosophila melanogaster and how they correlate to neural tube defects in fetal human infants,” as researched with his faculty mentor Dr. Katherine Bates, assistant professor of biology. Finally, Monique Turner presented “Parent Adolescent Communication about Sex among African American Mothers,” which was executed with Dr. Carl Sneed, associate professor of psychology.
“Going to SACNAS allowed me to articulate the enthusiasm I have for my research to the world,” said Tiger. “It also galvanized me to continue my research and get more involved in reading [the research of others].”
For SACNAS attendees, one of the main features of the conference is the opportunity to interact with students, faculty, and scientists who can propel students to the next levels in their education and career paths.
“This was my first year attending SACNAS and it was a completely surreal experience,” said senior Erika Torres. “On any given day you could find yourself sitting next to a graduate student, a dean, or recruiters for graduate school programs. There were numerous workshops one could attend, dinners with outstanding guest speakers—including a Nobel Prize award winner and a NASA scientist—and exhibition halls where graduate school program recruiters were ready to recruit.”
The organization’s focus on mentoring minority students—particularly of Latino and Native American descent—is also an encouraging aspect of the SACNAS conference for its attendees. CSU Dominguez Hills students often have the distinction of presenting their work while still undergraduates alongside graduate students from other institutions.
“I was really intrigued by how many students are interested in research, as I am,” noted Turner. “The SACNAS Conference provided a positive and warm learning environment for me to ask questions of professors and mentors that I did not know. I also made a lot of connections for the next steps in my career. The experience of going to the conference has enlightened my research, my goals, and has helped me realize, that I am, indeed, going in the right direction.”
For more information about the MARC program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.