Experiencing the SACNAS conference

This post is written with contributions from graduate students Megan Ly (Megan.Ly@Colorado.EDU) and Alexander Diaz (adiaz4@nd.edu).

The SACNAS annual conference took place at the end of October this year near Washington DC. SACNAS stands for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and its mission is to foster the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists – from college students to professionals – to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership. The SACNAS National Conference motivates, inspires and engages participants to achieve their highest goals in pursuing education and careers in STEM fields, and mathematics is always well represented. The conference is largely dedicated to support students through scientific talks, professional development sessions, recruitment by exhibitors and long-lasting mentoring. Below are the reflections of two graduate students, Megan Ly and Alexander Diaz, who attended as evidence of what SACNAS does for students. I urge undergraduate and graduate students, especially from minority groups, to consider attending future SACNAS meetings. 

My name is Megan Ly and I am a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder.  I’m at that point in grad school where it feels like I’ve been in school forever but the end is nowhere in sight; it’s a slump that many of us fall into.  And when that happens you need to get out and get inspiration.  For me this meant going to the SACNAS conference and talking to cool mathematicians.  At the conference I enjoyed meeting/reconnecting with mentors during the meals and hearing math talks from a diverse group of speakers.  What made these talks so engaging was the passion that the speakers put into their work.  In particular Alicia Prieto-Langarica’s talk about a game on graphs showed me that passion and creativity are driven by our personality, culture, and experiences. We each have a unique perspective that can allow us to see a hard problem differently and discover a solution. Being with such a diverse group of mathematicians really embodied that, the energy was incredible.  I am thankful to have spent a weekend with so many wonderful people who give me hope that the mathematics community is becoming more diverse and that I will enjoy a career in this field.

My name is Alexander Diaz-Lopez and I am in my last year of the Ph.D. Program at Notre Dame. If I had to summarize my SACNAS 2015 experience in one word, it would be motivation. Talking and interacting with so many great scientists that are not only doing great research, but also advancing our mission of creating a more diverse community in the STEM fields motivates me to work harder and join this group in our common mission. Additionally, by attending the social and networking events at SACNAS 2015 I was able to get advice and feedback about my research and my current situation as a graduating PhD student in mathematics. I am a believer that one of the key components of mentorship is to lead by example, and SACNAS promotes and recognizes those who excel at this, providing us with role models so we can become great mentors too.

Statements by people who attended SACNAS in previous years are available here, here and here.

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