SACNAS Selects Distinguished Awardees for Excellence in Science and Mentoring for the 2022 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference

For immediate release:
October 25, 2022 
Contact: Natalie Chamberlain – SACNAS Senior Manager, Communications & Marketing, Tel: 831-296-4220 


Awardees to be honored at 2022 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico

SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 SACNAS Distinguished Awards. This year’s two awardees have exemplified the SACNAS mission by showing unparalleled dedication to excellence in science, mentoring, and teaching. These outstanding individuals were nominated by those who have been touched by their work and selected by a committee of their peers. Awards will be presented with special tributes on Saturday, October 29 as part of the 2022 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference.

Since the SACNAS Distinguished Awards program was initiated in 1997, the Society has honored over 80 scientists, educators, and program directors for their commitment to and personification of the spirit of the SACNAS mission: to foster the success Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists, from college students to professionals, in attaining attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in STEM.

We are honored to present our 2022 recipients:

2022 SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award


2-3Dr. Otakuye Conroy-Ben

Assistant Professor, Environmental Engineering      

School of Sustainable Engineering and the Build Environment, Arizona State University

Dr. Otakuye Conroy-Ben on her achievement, "It is truly an honor to be recognized among the accomplished scholars of SACNAS for the work I do with and for American Indian students and tribal communities. I will continue to advocate for our tribes through research, mentorship, and respectful collaboration for years to come.  Pilamaya (thank you)!"

Dr. Otakuye Conroy-Ben, Titakuye Ota Win (Lakota for Many Relatives Women), is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University. Dr. Conroy-Ben received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Arizona, where she also completed postdoctoral training in Biochemistry. Her research interests include Tribal water quality, wastewater epidemiology and wastewater treatment, emerging and unregulated contaminants, and bacterial multidrug resistance. At ASU, she teaches courses in environmental organic chemistry, soil and groundwater remediation, and introduction to environmental engineering.

A former fancy shawl dancer, Otakuye is originally from Porcupine, SD, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She is married to Dr. Colin Ben, and they are the proud parents of two girls.


2022 SACNAS Distinguished Mentor Award

1-1Dr. Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez

Assistant Dean, Diversity and Inclusion

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology

UT Southwestern Medical Center, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Vazquez, on his achievement: "I am overwhelmed with gratitude to receive the SACNAS Distinguished Mentor Award. To receive this award in my birthplace of Puerto Rico is truly meaningful. I embody the notion that mentoring is fundamental to advance our efforts to create more diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces where all members feel welcome and empowered to fulfill their unique goals."

Dr. Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez is the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Diaz Vazquez received a BS in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University. After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Diaz Vazquez completed postdoctoral training in cancer pharmacology in the Blair Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Dr. Diaz Vazquez has over a decade of experience developing and implementing outreach, recruitment, retention initiatives, and research training programs. These initiatives aim at increasing the number and enhancing the success of Ph.D. and postdoctoral trainees from underrepresented backgrounds in the biomedical sciences. Dr. Diaz Vazquez is a Leadership Alliance Doctoral Scholar and an alumnus of the Linton-Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute.

At UT Southwestern, Dr. Diaz Vazquez oversees equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts in the graduate school and serves on several institutional committees, including the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Community Engagement committee. Dr. Diaz Vazquez serves as the Assistant Director of the UTSW Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion (OSDI). OSDI supports academic and professional development programs and community events that cultivate diversity, support inclusiveness, promote cultural awareness, and enhance learning and social environment. Dr. Diaz Vazquez directs UTSW's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, the AMGEN Scholars program, and UTSW Post-baccalaureate to Ph.D. (PB2PHD) program. In addition, Dr. Diaz Vazquez co-directs the UTSW Provost's Initiative for Diverse Emerging Scholars (PROVIDES). PROVIDES aims to close the racial diversity gap at most academic institutions nationwide in the sciences by offering resources to early-career scientists from underrepresented backgrounds and facilitating their transition into independent faculty positions. Dr. Diaz Vazquez also serves as the faculty advisor for several student-led organizations, such as the African American Association for Scientists (TAAAS), the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM).

Before joining UTSW, Dr. Diaz Vazquez was the Assistant Dean for Research Training Programs at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, where he spearheaded numerous DEI initiatives, including founding an office overseeing recruitment, retention, and training efforts for students from underrepresented backgrounds in the biomedical sciences. Dr. Diaz Vazquez was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational and served as the co-Principal Investigator of Penn's Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program, director of Penn's Summer Undergraduate Internship Program in the biomedical sciences, and co-director of Penn's Postdoctoral Opportunities in Research and Teaching program."

Awardees will be presented award and give acceptance speeches at the:

2022 NDiSTEM in San Juan, Puerto Rico Plenary Session and Closing Ceremony, Saturday, October 29th 3:15pm - 4:45pm Local Time


For nearly 50 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 including 9,000+ members, and close to 130 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 sacnas.orgFacebook, or Twitter.


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