Twenty-two BUILD PODER students enjoyed four days of networking, professional development workshops, student research presentations and inspiring speakers Nov. 1-4 at the 2017 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Arizona.
With about 4,000 in attendance this year, ABRCMS is one of the largest diversity in STEM conferences in the country, which took place shortly after the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference in October. As part of BUILD PODER’s program requirements, students must attend a scientific conference during their first year in the program and present their research at conferences in their second and third years. BUILD PODER provides travel funds for each student, covering conference registration fees, airfare, hotel lodging and meals, which can often cost students well over $1,000. Both the SACNAS and ABRCMS conferences were highlighted as incredible opportunities for those attending a conference for the first time or for those presenting their research.
BUILD PODER scholar and psychology major Crystal Venegas, one of five students who presented their research at the conference, said presenting at ABRCMS was a positive experience.
“I received a lot of valuable feedback,” Venegas said. “The judges were supportive and nice--I even had one tell me I was ready for graduate school.”
Venegas said she enjoyed listening to the conference speakers and noted a particularly inspiring speech.
“There was a speaker who actually made us say our name out loud with the word ‘doctor’ in front of it,” Venegas said. “I learned that I have to put myself out there and envision myself as ‘Dr. Venegas’ to realize my goal.”
BUILD PODER Trainee Golden Sheard, who attends East Los Angeles College--one of BUILD PODER’s community college partner campuses--said the conference put into view the vast landscape of graduate research programs and colleges that she previously did not know.
“I didn't know so many different accredited colleges existed,” Sheard said. “Turns out conferences are an amazing place to learn about internships. It made me feel academically renewed and reaffirmed my commitment to research.”
As many BUILD PODER students come from underrepresented groups in the sciences, they are often initially unfamiliar with the process of achieving a graduate education and may feel unsure or uneasy navigating that path. Conferences that focus on this demographic can offer the resources, affirmation and encouragement a student might need to move forward in their journey.
“What I took from the conference was the reassurance that the experiences I’ve been through are exactly what schools are looking for, and that if I continue on this path, I have a high chance of getting into a research institution,” said Christian Sanchez, a BUILD PODER scholar majoring in biology. “Attending the conference showed me what to expect when applying to, interviewing for, and being in a graduate program.”