SACNAS Announces Keynote & Featured Speakers for 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference in Hawai’i

Keynote speakers include Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole-Kanahele, a Kumu Hula, writer, educator, musician, and dedicated community leader and featured speakers include professional surfer, chemist, and journalist Dr. Cliff Kapono among other STEM diversity champions and trailblazers

HONOLULU, HI — The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is pleased to announce the first lineup of keynote and featured speakers for the 2019 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference, the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary STEM diversity gathering of students, professionals and leaders in the nation that will convene at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center October 31 – November 2, 2019. Additional speaker announcements will follow.

SACNAS is honored to bring the National Diversity in STEM Conference to Hawaii, America’s most ethnically diverse state. With deep ocean waters, active volcanoes, and incredibly diverse microclimates and environments, the islands are a wellspring of STEM research, opportunity, as well as a living legacy to indigenous knowledge.

SACNAS’ National Diversity in STEM Conference is a training ground for the next generation of diverse STEM professionals. The event aims to level the playing field for first-generation college students of color by offering critical tools for success in STEM such as mentorship, professional development, and networking opportunities. This year’s conference keynote and featured speakers are a renowned group of multidisciplinary researchers, STEM leaders, and STEM diversity trailblazers, including:

Keynote Speakers:

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Dr. Esteban Gonzalez Burchard, Professor, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Dr. Burchard is a physician-scientist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Burchard has formal training and expertise in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine, epidemiology, molecular genetics, and genetic and clinical research. Dr. Burchard initiated and now directs the largest study of asthma in minority children in the U.S. Dr. Burchard is the Director of the UCSF Asthma Collaboratory, a large inter- disciplinary research program focused on minority children and gene-environment interactions for asthma. Dr. Burchard’s team was the first to leverage genetic ancestry to identify novel genetic and environmental risk factors for lung disease and poor drug response among minority children with asthma. Dr. Burchard is the Principal Investigator of the Asthma Translational Genomics Collaborative (ATGC), the largest whole genome sequencing study of asthma in the world. Dr. Burchard served as an advisor to the Director for the National Institutes of Health All of Us initiative. In August 2018 Dr. Burchard received the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Medical Foundation and inducted into San Francisco State University’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

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Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole-Kanahele, University of Hawai’i and the Community College System, and Past President, Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation (EKF)

Dr. Pualani Kanakaʻole-Kanahele retired from the University of Hawaiʻi and the Community College System in 2013 following forty years of service. She also retired as Kumu Hula or Dance Teacher of the Hawaiian traditional dance in 2011, of which she had been

involved since infancy. “Aunty Pua”, as she is called, passed on her responsibility as President of the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation (EKF) in 2012 with twenty-four years of leadership. This retirement vein has seeped into all other phases of life with committees, community work, broadcasting, etc. Pualani Kanakaʻole-Kanahele is of pure Hawaiian ancestry and is very passionate about being Hawaiian and living on the islands. This passion does not diminish with age therefore no retirement from being. There is in fact an energy that pushes forward to increase understanding. Aunty Pua is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, photographer, teacher, author, pilot, researcher, adventurer, sailor, dancer, choreographer, chanter, thinker, activist, creator and a believer of things Hawaiʻi. All of these experiences cast the mold of who she is and how she lives her life.

Featured Speakers:

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Dr. Karletta Chief (Diné), Associate Professor & Extension Specialist, University of Arizona

Dr. Karletta Chief (Diné) is an Associate Professor and Specialist in Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona (UA). Her research focuses on understanding, tools, and predictions of watershed hydrology, unsaturated flow in arid environments, and how natural and human disturbances impact water resources. As an extension specialist, she works to bring relevant science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner by providing hydrology expertise, transferring knowledge, assessing information needs, and developing applied science projects. Dr. Chief is a member of a national climate change network of indigenous and non-indigenous scientists. Two of her primary tribal projects are The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Climate Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge and The Navajo Nation Gold King Mine Spill Impacts. Dr. Chief is the Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation Training Track “Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Security and Sovereignty” where 12 graduate trainees are learning FEWS skills and how to work with indigenous communities. Dr. Chief is Diné from Black Mesa, AZ and was raised without electricity or running water. She is a first generation college graduate. Dr. Chief received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000, and a Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources from UA in 2007. She completed her post-doctorate at Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, NV. Dr. Chief’s accomplishments include 2011 American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Most Promising Scientist/Scholar, 2013 Stanford University Distinguished Alumni Scholar, 2015 Native American 40 under 40, 2016 AISES Professional of the Year, and 2016 Phoenix Indian Center Woman of the Year.

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Dr. Pamela E. Harris, Assistant Professor, Williams College

Dr. Pamela E. Harris is a Mexican-American mathematician specializing in algebraic combinatorics and author of over 35 peer-reviewed research articles in internationally recognized journals. An award winning mathematical educator, Dr. Harris serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Williams College. In 2018, she was one of 50 women featured in the book “Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics,” and in 2019 she received the Council on Undergraduate Research Mathematics and Computer Sciences Division Early Career Faculty Mentor Award. Her professional mission is to develop learning communities that reinforce students’ self-identity as scientists, in particular for women and underrepresented minorities. In order to provide visibility to and increase the positive impact of the role models within our community, Dr. Harris co-founded, a platform that features the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic scholars in the Mathematical Sciences.

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Dr. Cliff Kapono, Creator and Innovator, Vissla, Ambassador, OluKai, Mass Media Fellow, AAAS

Dr. Cliff Kapono is a professional surfer, chemist, and journalist. Born on the eastern shores of Hawai‘i, his life involves equal parts science as it does surf. While contributing several peer-reviewed publications to the fields of molecular bioscience, he has also produced a handful of award-winning films that discuss indigenous activism, ocean conservation, global food security and virtual reality. He has been profiled in publications such as The New York Times, NBC, CBS, The Surfer’s Journal, and more. Cliff is currently based in Hilo, Hawai‘i and can be found tinkering in the lab when not chasing the best waves on the planet.

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Dr. Danielle N. Lee, Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, Network Blogger, Scientific American, Research Associate, Sokoine University of Agriculture (Morogoro, Tanzania)

Dr. Danielle N. Lee is an outreach scientist who studies the behavioral biology and natural history of small mammals across urban gradients. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Her research includes examining behavioral variation of field mice in the Metro St. Louis area and the natural history of African giant pouched rats of Tanzania. She is well known for her science promotion and outreach in social media. Dr. Lee was selected as a National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer in 2017 and TED Fellow in 2015. In 2014, she was named as one of EBONY Magazine’s Power 100 and a White House Champion of Change in STEM Diversity and Access. Follow her and her science adventures on Twitter or Instagram at @DNLee5.

To coordinate media interviews with 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM keynote and featured speakers, please contact Yamila Pino at or at 202-660-1433.


In celebration of these six speakers, SACNAS is offering a limited-time discount for

This offer is valid through August 21 at 11:59pm HST. Use promo code “6forSIX”!

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*Promo code “6forSIX” applies to regular registration rates for student, postdoc, or professional full conference registration ONLY. Exhibitor and/or Expo Hall-only registrations are not eligible. For detailed registration information, visit

About the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference

The largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, 2019 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference serves to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM. Over the course of the three days, college-level through professional attendees are immersed in cutting-edge scientific research and professional development sessions, motivational keynote speakers, a Graduate School & Career Expo Hall, multicultural celebrations, and an inclusive and welcoming community of peers, mentors, and role models. For more information or to register, visit


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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