SACNAS Honors Distinguished Awardees at 2019 National Diversity in STEM Conference

Awardees to be recognized October 31 at 2019 SACNAS — The National Diversity in STEM Conference in Honolulu, Hawai’i

HONOLULU, HI — The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is pleased to announce the winners of the SACNAS Distinguished Awards at the 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference at the Hawai’i Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawai’i from October 31 to November 2, 2019. This year’s awardees are true examples of SACNAS’ mission having demonstrated throughout their careers an unmatched dedication to excellence in science, mentoring, and teaching. These outstanding individuals were nominated by students and colleagues who were impacted by their work and selected by a committee of peers.

“Every year we recognize two excellent scientists that have made significant contributions to their field and that have a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion in STEM. This year we honor Dr. Robert Megginson and Dr. Renato Aguilera, inspiring professionals who embody the mission of SACNAS,” said SACNAS President Dr. Sonia Zárate.

“I started as an undergraduate member of SACNAS in the late 70s and have only missed one meeting since then. The society has helped me in countless ways by providing me inspirational mentors, lifelong friends and colleagues, and the emotional and intellectual support that I needed through all the stages of my career,” said Dr. Renato Aguilera, recipient of the 2019 SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by my selection for this distinguished award. The best and most significant recognitions come from one’s own community, and that makes this one truly special,” said Dr. Robert Megginson, recipient of the 2019 SACNAS Distinguished Mentor Award.

Since the SACNAS Distinguished Awards program was initiated in 1997, the organization has honored over 80 scientists, educators, and program directors for their commitment to, and personification of, SACNAS’ mission to help those most underrepresented in STEM to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership.


Renato Aguilera, PhD
Professor, The University of Texas at El Paso

The Aguilera laboratory has recently developed assays for the screening of chemical libraries on human cancer cells. During the recent past, his group developed and validated a screening assay that has resulted in the identification of several compounds that are cytotoxic to lymphomas but not other cancer cell types. They have also identified compounds that are highly active against lymphomas/leukemias and breast cancer cells. The main goal of our laboratory is to characterize the novel compounds that have been identified and to search for additional compounds from chemical libraries and natural sources. Our group has discovered one drug that has been used for many years as an antimalarial drug and shown to be safe in humans. In addition, two other patentable anti-cancer drugs are at various stages of development that may end up as novel therapeutic agents in the future. This research involves the participation and training of several underrepresented minority undergraduates and graduate students.


Robert E. Megginson, PhD
Professor, University of Michigan

Robert E. Megginson is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan, his academic home since 1992 except for two years as Deputy Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and some summers as adjunct faculty at a Native American tribal college. Originally trained as a functional analyst, he has become interested in the mathematics of climate science. Professional recognitions include election as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Mathematical Society. Other recognitions received specifically for helping engage more minorities in mathematics are the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Ely Parker Award, and the Mathematical Association of America’s Distinguished
Service Award. He has been named to the Native American Science and Engineering Wall of Fame at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, and portrayed in the book 100 Native Americans Who Shaped American History.

Click here for more information on the 2019 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference.

View SACNAS’ fact sheet and follow the organization on social media and conference updates via #2019SACNAS: FacebookLinkedInTwitterInstagramYouTube.

For over 46 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

Today, the organization serves a growing community of over 20,000 supporters, 6,000+ members, and 115+ student and professional chapters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences the STEM diversity movement through STEM outreach & advocacy, promotion of STEM leaders, and The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. Learn more about SACNAS at, Facebook, or Twitter.

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