Call for Submissions: Diversity in Science Carnival for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month and we will celebrate with another Diversity in Science Carnival: the blog carnival that celebrates people, innovations, and programs that promote diversity in STEM!

According to the website on Asian-Pacific month, “Asian-Pacific” refers to “all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).” This is a rather broad definition that represents many different cultures and ethnicities, and we hope to represent as many as possible for this carnival.

We seek submissions written by Asian-Pacific scientists and/or profiles of Asian-Pacific scientists, innovators, mentors, teachers, students, parents, or anyone else who contributes to our scientific community. This carnival is open to all: science bloggers, education bloggers, history/political science bloggers, and personal blogs. Please use the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival Submissions form or reply to this post or any other post on the UW SACNAS Chapter Blog with your link. The deadline is Friday, May 25th, 2012.  

If you have not had a chance, please read April’s Diversity in Science Carnival on the Imposter Syndrome, hosted by Scicurious.

As a student chapter of SACNAS in the Pacific Northwest, we have a large Asian-Pacific membership base and we are thrilled to have the opportunity of hosting this month’s carnival. We look forward to reading your submissions!


Student Spotlight: William Edelman

Name: William Edelman
Department: Genome Sciences
Year in School:  2nd Year Grad
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
Ethnicity: Latino

What carries cellular functions and processes? What can relay information to the nucleus of a cell and says, “hey! your environment is changing, access this or that gene and make more of me or my counterparts!” Why, proteins and their modifications of course! These are the aspects of proteomics Billy is most interested in. His research focuses on these aspects of oxidative stress in the baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and in aging-related disease. Although Billy loves his science, he does enjoy mentoring other students, cycling dozens of miles at a time into the countryside surrounding Seattle and. He is a native Ecuadorean, former New Yorker and an enchanted New Mexican at heart.

William’s CV is located below:

Guest Blog: Do You Feel Lucky Punk? Then Learn How To Internalize Your Success

The Seed Of Doubt:

I vividly remember waking up to a phone call I received a few years ago. Startled and disoriented I answered the phone expecting the usual deactivation threat from the good people at AT&T. Instead, I heard a pleasant voice from the University of Washington inviting me for an interview to potentially pursue my Ph.D.

Maybe they got my phone number mixed up with someone else’s? I couldn’t entertain the idea that I could “possibly” receive training from a top 5 ranked research institution. I kept thinking, “What luck? Why me?” This is when it all started:

My mom didn’t exactly put my GRE score on the refrigerator. My GPA was decent, but not spectacular and my research experience was, lets just say “untraditional.” So why did UW Medicine end up giving me a chance? I started reflecting on reasons why an institution so great would want an individual as “ordinary” as myself. Was it because my letters of recommendation were stellar? If that was the case, then this was based on someone else’s overinflated depiction of me and my achievements. I did obtain a fellowship at the NIH but that was only because I worked my way through the backdoor and started as an intern. I graduated with a bachelor of arts with high honors, but I studied anthropology not biochemistry, pre-medicine, or computer science. Real doubt consumed my subconscious when I realized: It must be because I am a minority student who grew up in a single family home, and attended a high school where it was common place to double your lunch money playing spades on the bathroom floor. UW must have felt sorry for me or at the very least they needed to meet the diversity statement on their homepage.

Say it with me “I am not a fraud”

“Impostor Syndrome” is the name given to the stream of consciousness I just described. I am two years into graduate school at UW and I am still worried about being “exposed.” Impostor syndrome is alive and well in all types of successful people: graduate students, professors, men and women, white and black, gay and straight. It’s real, and it’s not going anywhere. On the contrary, the more you achieve, the more you will feel like an impostor.

According to psychotherapy experts, Impostor Syndrome, “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” “…Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and don’t deserve the success they have achieved.” We impostors chalk our successes up to a fluke of chance or just simply being lucky, and we are always in over our heads.

Only Diamonds Can Sharpen Diamonds:

If you can identify with my musings you are not alone. Everyone feels this way at some point when they are internalizing the successes in their life. There are several ways to cope with Impostor Syndrome, and consequently internalize your success:

Communicate. Misery loves company, so surround yourself with successful people because they are likely to feel like impostors too. Sharing your feelings with your peers is okay. This is the only way you can discover that your peers feel exactly like you do. I have to admit it’s immensely therapeutic to hear people that I believe are leagues more intelligent than me say, “I feel the same way.”

Under Sell, Over Deliver:

From what little success I have accumulated I can provide some advice. My first year of graduate school was one of the hardest transitions in my life. When you enter a new professional environment its very difficult to assess your progress, especially in graduate school. Moving forward and accumulating further success is a huge challenge. Comparing yourself and your accomplishments to others in your cohort is a natural yet toxic consequence of interacting with your peers. Comparing your experiences, strengths, and weaknesses to that of your peers is impossible and fruitless. Everyone’s path to success is different and you should use this as an opportunity to learn from your peers rather than compete with them.

Having an accurate pulse on your performance and progression in the work place is of great importance. Creating weekly lists and accomplishing them is something that works for me. I regularly set goals and share them with my advisor. If those goals are not accomplished in the time allocated we both leave our weekly meetings disappointed. That disappointment serves as motivation because I realize that I did not meet the goals we agreed on and this motivates me to work significantly harder the following week.

Doubt is Healthy, Fear is Paralyzing:

I am preparing to take my general exam this summer. This is not something I am looking forward to yet I know its necessary for me to progress from graduate student to Ph.D. candidate. My greatest fear is that I will fail my exam and not achieve a goal I have set for myself. However, I will not let that fear paralyze me. I will let that seed of doubt motivate me to work hard and communicate with my mentors when I am floundering. I will surround myself with people who encourage me to succeed. There’s a chance that I will make excuses about approaching and passing another milestone in my life. Ultimately, this milestone will serve as just another notch on my belt reenforcing my new train of thought. Because when I do pass my general exam it will be because I am legitimate not lucky. In the words of Thomas Jefferson “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”


  1. Langford, Joe; Clance, Pauline Rose (1993). “The Impostor Phenomenon: Recent Research Findings Regarding Dynamics, Personality and Family Patterns and Their Implications for Treatment” (PDF). Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training30 (3): 495–501.
  2. Lucas Laursen (2008) “No, You’re Not an Impostor.” United Kingdom. Science Careers.  Science Magazine.

Keolu Fox is a graduate student in the department of genome sciences. His research interests include human genome sequencing technology, and human genetic variation. 

Outreach Event: Yakima Valley Science and Engineering Festival

On March 8, the UW Student Chapter of SACNAS participated in the first ever Yakima Valley Science and Engineering Festival.  The event, sponsored by the University of Washington, Educational Service District 105 and Heritage University, brought 2100 K-12 students and community members to interact with hands-on STEM activities from over 70 exhibitors.  It was an amazing day where chapter members Katrina Claw, Daniel Hernandez and I all walked away completely energized and hoarse from so many positive interactions with Yakima Valley community members.

The UW Student Chapter of SACNAS was approached by UW Genome Sciences to participate in event, I was immediately interested in helping. This was a great opportunity to bring the science of SoundCitizen and the community of the chapter to the large populations of of Hispanic/Latino and Native American youth in the rural Yakima Valley.  While there is a wealth of opportunities for students in the Seattle metropolitan area to connect with STEM professionals, opportunities for rural youth are few and far between.

An email from an event organizer recounted “Exhibitors/presenters included Boeing’s Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), (OHSU) Oregon’s Health and Science University’s “Let’s Get Healthy” exhibit, University of Washington’s GENOME Project, ESD 105’s STEM Showcase and many other community based booths. There were also representatives from higher education schools such as the University of Washington, Heritage University, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, Yakima Valley Community College, YV Tech & Washington State University MESA program.” We repeatedly heard from event participants that there had never been anything like this around Yakima and organizers are receiving emails asking about next year’s event, indicating how excited the community was about this opportunity,

As a representative of SoundCitizen from UW Tacoma, I brought an interactive watershed model to demonstrate how vanilla ends up in ocean water. It was fun to talk to youth and see their surprised looks when they learned about the difference between natural and artificial vanilla, how common vanilla is in the environment and how chemicals they use in everyday products end up in marine systems.  One middle school girl told me, “I thought this science festival was going to be kinda boring, but this is really interesting!”

This event was also an opportunity to roll out an exciting new interactive outreach activity for the UW SACNAS Chapter – Match A Scientist.  Youth tried to match pictures of chapter members with a description of what they research.  It was a really fun and surprisingly engaging activity.  Kids would look at photos and say “Look, she’s Mexican!” and “Look, he’s Native!” It was a fun, engaging way for students to see who is doing science and the kinds of science being done at UW! As one middle school student said when they saw the pictures of chapter members, “They’re all scientists?!?!”  Yes we are and you can be one, too!

Amanda Bruner is a Program Coordinator at the University of Washington Tacoma.  Her current positions with SoundCitizen and the Math-Science-Leadership Program are focused on broadening public participation in STEM and bridging university research to local youth and communities.

Guest Blog: I am STEM – the festival edition

In science festivals and large exhibition-style events (like the Yakima Valley Science Festival), it’s important to have a hands-on activity that immediately engages people.  After dozens of booths and activities, you hope the youth who visit your booth for 1-3 minutes will walk away with a lasting, positive message, curiosity or kernel of knowledge.  While I’m comfortable in these kinds of fair settings my work with SoundCitizen, thinking through how to create an interactive activity that would be fun and best represent the UW Student Chapter of SACNAS was an intriguing challenge.  What activity in 1-3 minutes could best benefit the youth we interact with?

One of the powerful opportunities that student chapters present is the ability to provide diverse role models for youth. After working with learning scientists to build a science program that connects youth from groups that are underrepresented in the sciences with mentors from similar groups, I learned there isn’t a lot of academic research done yet about how interacting with a minority mentor may influence a minority youth’s building of a positive science-linked identity.  However, the knowledge that we need to connect younger SACNISTAs with SACNISTAs that are further along in their academic career is one of the driving themes at the annual National Conference.  Having STEM mentors and role models that reflect your ethnicity and cultural values makes STEM careers more accessible and broadens the picture of who youth see as scientists.

Match A Scientist

The resulting activity we used at the Yakima Valley Science and Engineering Festival to talk to youth about the UW SACNAS Student Chapter in a hands-on way is the game “Match A Scientist.”  I Googled this term and found a great classroom activity with famous scientists, but I wanted youth to interact with the scientists in the chapter in the festival setting.

When youth walked up to the booth, they saw the gameboard and cards with pictures of chapter members.  How the game was introduced changed throughout the day, but generally the introduction went something like this:

Youth at the festival matching chapter member pictures to a description of their research.

“Hello. We are students who study science at the University of Washington and we’re all part of a society called SACNAS.  These are pictures of scientists who are part of our chapter and we all study science, and in this game you match the person to the kind of science they study.  Would you like to guess what this person (picks up a card with a picture) might study?”

Sometimes we would give hints and there really wasn’t a way for students to intuit who would do what, but it provided a great opportunity for students to quickly be exposed to the diversity of people who are scientists and the diversity of what scientists study.  As one middle school student said when they saw the pictures of chapter members, “They’re all scientists?!?!”  Can you guess who studies what?

Setting up this activity for your chapter

At a chapter meeting, chapter members filled out the following survey:

1. Name
2. Department or major
3. Ethnicity
4. What you study (general, as if explaining it to a 4th grader)

I then took head shots of the members (so photos would be uniform).  This resulted in a wonderfully diverse matrix of faces, ethnicities and research disciplines.

I made a posterboard foam gameboard (I have a weakness for glitter!) and made the game so that pictures and descriptions are interchangeable by attaching them with poster tack so that in the future new or different members can be included in the game.  If you’re not as crafty or have limited time, the game would be just as successful if the information and pictures are mounted on large index cards.  One important lesson we learned is that students really enjoyed trying to guess what the members who were present at the event studied.  It also helps to entice students to win candy if they guess (but we gave it to everyone who tried!).

The result was a simple, but engaging activity that quickly gave students and adults present what was often a surprising look into the diversity of research and scientists at UW!

Amanda Bruner is a Program Coordinator at the University of Washington Tacoma.  Her current positions with SoundCitizen and the Math-Science-Leadership Program are focused on broadening public participation in STEM and bridging university research to local youth and communities.

Guest Blog: Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome: Not Once, But Twice

I began my graduate career back in 2004 in the field of Ethnomusicology. My cohort of 4 people included someone who was the Assistant Director of a non-profit organization that placed inner-city kids in music lessons and brought musicians from all over the world for performances and workshops, a blues musician and a long-time jazz musician who had met many of the famous names we speak about when we’re talking  about jazz. They were all at least 4 years older than me and had worked at various jobs within the music field since graduating from college. On the other hand, I was 22-years-old, straight out of finishing my undergraduate degree. I had just moved from Florida and was completely unfamiliar with the West Coast (the other three had lived somewhere on the West Coast all their lives). My partner and I had no friends and were just getting our bearings on where the closest grocery store was, specifically because we had no car and had to either walk or navigate the bus system. Our family and closest friends were 3,500 miles away.

Then there was graduate school. I figured that since I got good grades as an undergraduate and really enjoyed things like writing papers that graduate school would be the next logical step and it would be a very smooth transition. Boy, was I wrong! I sat in my first graduate seminar on a Thursday morning. The professor was one of those so-smart-his-brain-is-too-big-for-his-head type of guys. He didn’t look at anyone in particular when he spoke. He just stared off into space as  if he were talking to an audience that none of us were aware of but had to be in this room somewhere. He was rather awkward and seemingly unapproachable. I listened to every word he said during the 2-hour seminar and understood close to none of them. I took copious notes and decided to go to the library and check out every book he mentioned during his lecture. This proved quite stressful, as I also had to learn to navigate a new library system, so it took me a few hours to check out about 6 or 7 books. I walked home that afternoon with an arm full of books and I was mentally exhausted from the experience. I was totally lost. After the weekend passed, I mustered up the courage to speak to the others in my cohort. It turns out that despite the looks of confidence on their faces, they were all lost too!! I felt much better knowing that it wasn’t just me.

We formed a support/study group and met frequently, talking about our uncertainties in graduate school and our  interactions with this “scary” professor. We finally began to understand how this professor worked. He seemed quite unapproachable in class, but was incredibly supportive and helpful when you spoke to him one-on-one  in his office. He ended up serving as the chair of my MA thesis and was a great support for me when I faced issues in a course that I taught a few years later.

But that was only one class…there were other subjects besides the Music of Asia. In other classes, my colleagues would go off on tangents about jazz or about other things that I had never heard of in my life. They would jeopardize the discussion with the professor, who also had a broad knowledge base on the subject. Once again, I felt lost. Why did they know these things and I didn’t? Should I have known them? Did I miss all of this in a reading or something? Are they going to find out they admitted me by mistake because I’m not as smart as my colleagues? And there it was, the full-blown impostor syndrome!

After weathering the storm, I realized, again from talking to my colleagues, that there were times that they had no idea what I was talking about. They had never heard of some of the things that I had studied or experienced, and although they always looked confident, they were equally as lost as I was when they spoke (although I probably looked confused, not confident!) I realized over time that we were all admitted to the program for different reasons and that we were not expected to know everything. We were there to learn, and most importantly, to learn from each other. In fact, one of my colleagues who seemed to know everything about everything once told me that he didn’t know how to properly use citations until he read one of  my papers. I taught him how to do something and I didn’t even know it! I later realized that we were all supposed to be there, and suffering the impostor syndrome was normal and just a phase. I spent the next two years mentoring new students and telling them about the impostor syndrome and that it was OK to feel lost at first. I was the expert. I had been through it and was helping others, the way it should be. But then, for a variety of reasons, I switched over to the Sociology Department. And it happened again…

I entered the Sociology department in 2007 and was excited to begin my first/fourth year of graduate school. I was relatively new to the program, although the previous year I had taken a few statistics courses so I knew a few professors and some of the students in the program. In fact, one of my statistics professors, who was a heavy-weight in the department, wrote one of my letters of recommendation for admission. I felt confident that even though I took a huge leap from qualitative to quantitative research and from Music to Demography that I would be fine. After all, this wasn’t really my first year of graduate school so I knew what I was doing! My new classmates looked up to me because I exuded confidence and wasn’t nervous about the typical first-year issues of being lost in class and not knowing where the grocery store was near my house. And then, it happened…

I took a course taught by my former statistics professor and letter of recommendation-writer during my first quarter in Sociology. She was going through a lot that quarter personally and professionally and did not have the energy to keep the course organized. It was so disorganized that she gave us instructions for our final paper the week it was due. These instructions were completely the opposite of what she had expected earlier in the quarter. I scrambled to get this done, and ultimately had to ask for an extension because I was taking 14 credits (10 is a full load) and had too many other final projects to have to change this one as well. Being new to the field of Sociology, I had never written a final paper before, so here was my first stab in the field. I wrote the paper from home while visiting my parents in Florida. I spent an entire day working on it and felt pretty good when I submitted it.

When I returned from break, I saw that I had an envelope in my mailbox with my name written on it (misspelled!) I opened it and it was a 2-page, single-spaced letter from that professor ripping my paper to shreds. She had highlighted certain parts of my paper and had comments such as, “Did you even read this article?” And “If you think this person is a schmuck, just come out and say it!” The last sentence was, “This would only be a B- undergraduate paper.” I was crushed. Here I was, I had just completely changed my graduate major and had to start over in a different field after 3 years and I picked the wrong field! I was barely capable of writing a good paper at an undergraduate level. I had made a mistake and so had they. They admitted me by mistake. They found out I wasn’t as smart as I thought. Maybe I was a good student in Ethnomusicology, but Sociology certainly wasn’t my field. After reading the letter and holding back tears, I brought a trusted friend of mine to the 7th floor bathroom in Condon Hall and just cried. I was hurt. I had regrets. I couldn’t believe what had happened! I even showed up to the first day of the first class I was taking with my advisor late and with red eyes. I didn’t want my classmates to know what had happened because I wanted them to think that I was still as confident as the first day I began our program. I wasn’t going to suffer from the impostor syndrome, I was going to warn them so that they never did!

I decided to send an email to the professor apologizing for wasting her time with the paper and explaining that I did not do a poor job on purpose. I wanted to make it up to her to re-do the paper so I could learn from my mistakes; not to get a better grade, but to prove to her that I could to it and improve myself as an academic. She responded immediately and graciously accepted my apology. Things were looking good.

After swallowing my pride, I was able to talk to some classmates about it. Apparently she ripped into a few others as well, not just me. Also, one of her advisees said, “You probably caught her on a day where she was in a bad mood and she lashed out on you. That’s one of her faults. Don’t take it personally.” I realized this was probably true because every time I saw this professor, whether it was in the hallway or in our neighborhood while she was walking her dog, she was very awkward towards me. I tried emailing her several times over 2 years asking if she was still willing to meet with me (she never gave me a grade either, so I ended up with an incomplete in her course!) She never responded to my requests via email but always in person said awkwardly, “I’ve just been so busy but I know I owe you a meeting.” I realized after all this time passed, that my friend was right: it wasn’t me with the problem, it was her. After this course, I never received any other criticism like that from any other professor. Sure, my work is not perfect, and from time-to-time I got some harsh criticism, but nobody ever attacked me the  way she did. It is unfortunate that the isolated incident occurred right at the beginning of my time in Sociology and that it set off triggers of the too-familiar impostor syndrome. I should have known better, but instead fell victim to the very thing  I was trying to protect others from and swore I could detect from a mile away!

We all go through ups and downs in graduate school. These are a few stories of my downs. On the upside, I’ll be graduating in June with a PhD and while these stories shaped me, they did not define who I was and how I proceeded in graduate school. Impostor syndrome, you tried to get me twice, but you lose! I belong here. 

Sabrina Bonaparte is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department. Her research areas are Demography, Statistics and Education. She is the manager of the UW SACNAS blog.