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15 SACNAS Members Awarded HHMI Gilliam Fellowships to Support Diversity and Inclusion in Science

Pictured (from left to right): 1st row — Kellianne Alexander, Justin Avila, Gabriela Bosque, Natasha Lopes Fischer. 2nd row — Leslie Mateo, Sadi Quinones, Jacob Steenwyk, Erick Velasquez. 3rd row — Dr. Chris Dulla, Dr. Jorge Torres.
Not pictured: Selina Baeza Loya, Irma Fernandez, Tavita Garrett, Gloria Hernandez, Fauna Yarza

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study to 15 SACNAS members, including 13 students (fellows) and 2 professionals (thesis advisers).

“SACNAS played a huge role in being awarded this fellowship,” said Leslie Mateo, one of the awarded fellows and Stanford University’s SACNAS Chapter Co-President. “The Gilliam Fellowship aims to prepare future scientists for leadership roles, but they also want to see that the recipients have already demonstrated leadership potential. In solidarity with Stanford’s mission value of diversity and inclusion, three graduate students and I decided to reestablish the inactive Stanford SACNAS chapter in 2016.”

Like many members, Leslie gained valuable leadership, organizing, and professional development skills by participating in her local chapter and expressed gratitude to these experiences in securing the fellowship.

“SACNAS was one of the first organizations where I got to explore my identity as a scientist and a Salvadoran immigrant,” added Erick Velasquez, one of the awarded fellows and member of UCLA’s SACNAS Chapter. “I participated in events which really built my confidence as a scientist. The chapter also gave me access to people who helped me network in undergrad, and later helped me apply to graduate school as a DACA student.”

According to the HHMI website, Gilliam Fellows are selected every year as an adviser-student pair who are committed to building inclusive lab environments and helping increase diversity in the next generation of scientists.

“SACNAS has played a huge role in the way that I approach the mentoring of students,” said Dr. Jorge Torres, SACNAS Lifetime member and thesis adviser to Erick Velasquez. “I have learned a great deal about how to understand diverse students, their potential barriers to success, and how to go about eliminating these barriers to promote their success in STEM careers.”

This year a total of 44 recipients were selected, totaling 256 total awardees since the fellowship’s inception in 2016. Recipients will participate in online trainings, in-person workshops, and receive a $50,000 annual award for up to three years.

“This fellowship is especially unique and exciting because of the money that we will receive to improve representation of under-represented minorities in STEM, specifically at the grad school level,” said accepted fellow Sadi Quinones. “There are so many avenues to address this issue, and what’s special is that every fellow that just received this funding has their own reasons and their own experiences that drive how they approach it.”

In addition to supporting research, recruitment, and mentoring efforts at their local institutions, many of the recipients also added that they plan to use part of the funds to attend the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference in Honolulu this October.

SACNAS Members awarded as Gilliam Fellows:

Kellianne AlexanderUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
Justin Avila • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Selina Baeza LoyaThe University of Chicago
Gabriela Bosque OrtizYale School of Medicine, SACNAS Chapter Member
Irma FernandezCornell University, SACNAS Chapter Member
Tavita GarrettOregon Health & Science University
Gloria HernandezUniversity of California, Los Angeles, SACNAS Chapter Member
Natasha Lopes FischerUniversity of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, SACNAS Chapter Member
Leslie MateoStanford University School of Medicine, SACNAS Chapter Member
Sadi QuinonesTufts University
Jacob SteenwykVanderbilt University
Erick Velasquez • University of California, Los Angeles, SACNAS Chapter Member
Fauna YarzaUniversity of California, San Francisco, SACNAS Chapter Member

SACNAS Members Awarded as Gilliam Advisers:

Dr. Chris Dulla (Adviser to Sadi Quinones) • Tufts University
Dr. Jorge Torres, Lifetime Member • University of California, Los Angeles

Read the full story on HHMI.org >>

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