Expanding a Diverse Community of Colleagues in STEM


By Mónica Ríos-Cabanillas posted 05-17-2018 07:10


I am very thankful and honored to be chosen to receive the Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award through which I attended the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) 2017 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a passion and personal achievement of mine to be able to celebrate and participate in this national diversity conference in STEM. My research and work are currently in the field of neurotoxicology. My interest and focus are to understand the mechanisms involved during methylmercury-mediated calcium dysregulation and induced cell death of spinal cord neurons after an acute exposure.

Participating in SACNAS provided an amazing opportunity to learn all the latest advanced scientific progress in STEM while creating awareness of the Society of Toxicology (SOT). I assisted SOT’s Committee on Diversity Initiatives in recruiting new students to participate in the SOT Undergraduate Diversity Program. Additionally, attending this meeting contributed tremendously to building my professional network since I had the opportunity to interact with undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, professors, and professionals in government and industry.

While at the SOT Booth, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Pedro Del Valle, PhD, from the US Food and Drug Administration. The experience taught me how to engage with scientists and toxicologists unfamiliar with the field of toxicology. It also helped me speak on the subject of toxicology in a very understandable way for the general public. I also had the opportunity to learn about Dr. Del Valle’s professional scientific pathway and to share my research experience. It was rewarding to be able to inform current and future scientists about how the toxicology field has a major impact on our communities and on the planet.

At the SACNAS conference, I also participated in the neuroscience roundtables and seminars that allowed me to network with others and exchange business cards while hearing from very inspiring keynote speakers such as Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, PhD, US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Tyrone Hayes, PhD, University of California, Berkeley.

SACNAS 2017 impacted my education in that I shared my scientific research with fellow scientists who provide support and access to future educational and professional opportunities. This experience also allowed me to meet different mentors in my area of study and research from all over the world. My long-term goal is to be a successful scientist who can contribute knowledge to the field of neurotoxicology and neurodegenerative diseases. I am very interested in the fields of toxicity regulation, environmental advisory, and neurotoxicity research.

My expected outcome attending SACNAS was to gain a community of support, training, and leadership skills that will guide me through my scientific education and enhance the journey in my career. I will take all that I have learned at SACNAS and apply this experience to my work. I also will share this information with the undergraduate students I mentor in order to engage and inspire them to further their knowledge, understanding, and excitement in the scientific community.

The SOT Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award enables undergraduate and graduate students to engage in additional education and career development opportunities to enhance their personal development. Administered by the Committee on Diversity Initiatives, the SOT Diversity Initiative Endowment Fund provides the award that aims to increase and retain individuals from groups under-represented in the biomedical sciences. Recipients of this award are chosen based on criteria that include quality of proposed experience, relevance of the proposed professional activity to a career involving the science of toxicology, academic achievement, and recommendation by academic advisor. 

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