SACNAS Mentors The Next Generation Of Minority Scientists

SACNAS Mentors The Next Generation Of Minority Scientists

The exhibit hall floor was lined with students discussing their experiments and research in topics as diverse as biomedical sciences, mathematics, physics, atmospheric sciences and engineering. The annual conference for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), held in Denver this year, drew more than 2,000 minority teachers, graduate and undergraduate students for the three-day event.

SACNAS was named by the National Science Board as the “premier organization that promotes diversity in science careers, especially for under-represented Latinos and Native Americans.” Founded in 1973, SACNAS supports Chicano, Latino, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian and other under-represented minority students
and professionals in science research, policy and education through its heavy focus on mentoring, says Jenny Kurzweil, the organization’s news editor. “Mentoring is at the heart of everything we do.”

More than 500 undergraduate and graduate students presented briefings about their scientific inquiries. The presentations were judged by current postdoctoral students, faculty, exhibitors and professional attendees from across the country. Judges with subject matter expertise gave students valuable feedback, mentoring and encouragement about their research, experiments and results, as well as further avenues to explore.

According to Kurzweil, the mentoring component of the program is invaluable, as often times minority science and engineering students feel they are working in a vacuum. Minority students comprise a generally small percentage of college populations, and thus make up an even smaller percentage of students enrolled in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Isolation is a very real concern for many minority students in those fields. SACNAS provides opportunities for mentoring and networking between both students and working professionals of SACNAS.

In May, the White House announced that SACNAS was among the recipients of the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, a program supported and administered by the National Science Foundation.

— Dina M. Horwedel

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