Student Spotlight: Graduation Edition

Pictured (from left to right): Andy Barr (BS), Daniel Alejandro Haskell (MS), Laurel James (MS), Ruth Sims (MS), Sabrina Bonaparte (PhD), Savannah Benally (MiT)
Officers (left to right): Daniel Hernandez, Natalie Garcia

This edition of the Student Spotlight Series will feature graduates of our chapter. If they were featured (or wrote) a previous blog post this year, it has been linked to their names below. We hope you enjoy meeting the class of 2012!!


Name: Andrew Barr
Department:  Applied Math
Degree: Bachelor of Science
Future Plans: going to UC Merced for Graduate School in Applied Math next Fall.

Name: Jose Pineda
Department: Neuroscience
Degree: Bachelor of Science


Name: Savannah Benally
Department:  Education: Secondary General Science
Degree:  Masters in Teaching, Secondary Science Teaching Certification
Future Plans:  Work at a middle school that serves underrepresented youth in STEM.

Name:  Daniel Alejandro Haskell
Department: Environmental Engineering
Degree: Master of Science
Future Plans:  Working at the Environmental Protection Agency

Name: Laurel James
Department: Forest Resources
Degree: Master of Science
Future Plans:  Continuing on to a PhD program in Forest Resources at the University of Washington.

Name: Katie McDonald
 Environmental Toxicology
Degree: Master of Science
Future Plans: Will work for the Department of Energy Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, OR.

Name: Patricia Montano
Department: Museology
Degree: Master of Arts
Future Plans: Moving to DC to pursue career plans

Name: Ruth Sims
Department: Electrical Engineering
Degree:  Master of Science
Future Plans:  Continuing to a PhD program in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington


Name: Sabrina Bonaparte 
Department: Sociology
Degree: PhD
Future Plans: Working tirelessly to increase the number of minority students in STEM fields.

Name: Maria Zavala
Department: Mathematics Education
Degree: PhD
Future Plans: Faculty Position at San Francisco State University

Congrats, Class of 2012!!

About the Author “UW SACNAS Student Chapter”:  I (Sabrina Bonaparte, AKA, “Cyber SACNAS”) am signing off for good, now that I have graduated! I will probably be back for guest blogs here and there in the future but the blog will be left in good hands. It’s been fun exploring the world of science blogging with all of you and I will continue at my own personal blog site in the future! Thanks for the many guest blog posts, comments and suggestions you’ve all given me over this past year. Happy blogging! 


A great follow up to our Diversity in Science Carnival asks: are there enough Asian-Pacific Americans in the natural history fields? (the answer is no!)

Diversity in Science Carnival #16: Asian-Pacific Heritage Month

This month’s Diversity in Science Carnival is dedicated to Asian-Pacific Heritage Month. We’ll talk about strong Asian-Pacific women, Asian-Americans in education, and at the end there is an entire section dedicated to educators who would like to incorporate more information about Asian-Pacific Americans into their classroom.

For demographic facts on the Asian-Pacific Islander population, see the US Census Bureau’s Press Release on Asian-Pacific Heritage Month. Some highlights of the report are that there are 17 million Asians living in the United States; 5.6% of the population.  Asians excel in educational attainment; 50% of adults aged 25 and over possess a college degree. This is compared to only 25% of the overall American population over age 25. Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders account for 0.4% of the population, number 1.2 million people.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that despite their higher levels of educational attainment, Asian Americans continued to suffer long-term unemployment in 2011. They concluded that the patterns of unemployment were a result of nativity (a high number of foreign-born Asians), racial bias, and the high number of Asians that reside in California, a state which has struggled in the economic crisis. It is unknown if these same unemployment rates are also within STEM fields, which seemingly have no shortage of jobs. Within STEM fields, 6% of undergraduate (2008) and graduate (2009) students are of Asian-Pacific Islander descent.

The Asian-Pacific Islander population contribute to the rich cultural diversity of the United States. The Pacific Island National Park blog featured photos and videos from Pacific Islander Heritage Day on May 11, 2012 at Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site in Hawaii.  Participants in this event had the opportunity to experience traditional demonstrations and activities related to Native Hawaiian culture and the cultures of other areas of the Pacific.

Professionally, the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) exists to advance Asian heritage scientists and engineers in education and employment. Andrea Stith blogged about the first annual meeting of SASE which occurred on the weekend of September 30, 2011. The second annual  meeting will occur from October 11-13th, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. If you’re interested in following SASE, they have their own blog as well.

Asian-Pacific Women 

At the UW SACNAS Chapter Blog, Dr. Amber Caracol talks about her lineage of strong women, stemming back to her family history in Korea and the Philippines.

Dr. Amber Caracol and Mama Caracol (her grandmother) at Mama Caracol’s 75th birthday celebration

Amber, who is the former president of the UW SACNAS Chapter and now teaches Anatomy and Physiology and Biology at North Seattle Community College, decided to host her students as guest bloggers on her personal site. She talks about Celebrating Diversity in her course, Biology 100 and how her class honored Asian-Pacific Heritage Month through blogging. The posts are about a variety of topics from teaching children about science, what diversity means to Tomoko Okada and how she has developed more confidence in her identity as a result, one person’s story of personal growth after attending a non-Christian school for the first time in their life, Raphael Davis’ experiences traveling in Asia in the Navy and his experiences living on the diverse ship, the USS Kitty Hawk,  the science behind the life of Jonathon Franz, who works as a firefighter and paramedic in Tacoma and traveled to Haiti in 2011, and Rebecca Y’s experience working with Earth Corps. While not all of these posts are directly related to Asian-Pacific Heritage month, they highlight the diverse experiences of Asian-Pacific (and non-Asian-Pacific) scientists at the community college level.

A post by an Indian field biologist who discusses her experiences balancing work and home and comparing US and Indian graduate school and research traditions.  If you are a mother doing field work, she provides great advice on how to take your child with you.

Continuing with the amazing female Asian-Pacific American scientist theme, Hyphen Magazine, which is dedicated to Asian American culture,  featured Jane Luu for women’s history month. Dr. Luu is a Vietnamese-American astronomer who co-discovered the Kuiper Belt while still in graduate school!

The STEMinist blog recently featured Materials & Process Engineer Michelle Hsia, who got to work on a Forumla SAE race car as an undergraduate. The blog itself was founded by Ann Hoang, an Asian-American Software Engineer at the University of Oregon.

Looking for a way to inspire more girls to get involved in math and science? Three engineering students think they have a way to do this by exposing young girls to STEM using toys. Their project was featured as a Kickstarter of the Week and you can help them bring this to fruition.

Asian-Americans in Education

As mentioned earlier, data support the notion that Asian-Americans are successful in academia. Some attribute Asian-American success to the cultural values passed from parents on to their children. On the other hand, the high levels of success lead to stereotypes of Asian-Americans being the “model minority” or the assumption that all Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are monolithically successful.

The National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) at New York University conducts research on this very topic.  A book specific to Asian-Americans in education is Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education by Robert T. Teranishi. One review of the book noted that Teranishi addressed issues in data collection and data quality when examining the Asian-Pacific Islander American community and another addresses the Asian American male experience in higher education.

There are several notable college presidents who are Asian-American or Pacific Islander. To name a few:

Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Ph.D. (Anthropology)
President, Dartmouth College
next president of the World Bank

Mark Mitsui (Educational Leadership and Policy)
President, North Seattle Community College

Bob H. Suzuki, Ph.D. (Aerospace Engineering)
President Emeritus of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Leslie E. Wong, Ph.D. (Educational Psychology)
President, Northern Michigan University
now President, San Francisco State University

Henry T. Yang, Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering)
Chancellor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Phyllis Wise, Ph.D. (Biology)
Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For Educators

For educators interested in teaching students about Asian-Pacific American scientists, you can track the contributions of Asian-Pacific American scientists using this timeline that goes back to 1901!  Also, there is a book that profiles Asian-American scientists for grades 6 and up. If you’d like to teach your students about the most brilliant Asian Americans of all time, this website has you covered! You can also teach about Asian American innovators

Speaking of younger students, the Angry Asian Man Blog highlighted two remarkable high school scientists: Angela Zhang, who won a $100,000 scholarship for her innovative cancer research and Li Boynton, who was invited to sit in with Michelle Obama during the President’s State of the Union Address.

Just for fun, why not teach your students about the science behind the wok? Or how about an entertaining discussion on Asian earwax?

For college students and those who are of drinking age, you can discuss the biology behind the “Asian Flush”, which may be caused by riceAmasian offers both the most specific and the most entertaining scientific approach to the “Asian Glow” (or the “Asian Flush”) resulting from the buildup of acetaldehyde. He also discusses the emasculation of Asian American men in popular culture and provides the perfect mix of humor and science to illustrate his points.

Amasian provides a scientific approach to the “Asian Glow” and also uses humor to illustrate his findings

Why not teach about all of the Asian-Americans who won a Nobel Prize? You could start by focusing on Steven Chu, a quantum mechanic who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.

Here is a list of several other notable Asian-Pacific researchers and their fields:

Nobel Prize Winners in Physics
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
Steven Chu
Chen Ning Yang
Tsung Dao Lee
Samuel Chao Chung Ting

Nuclear physicist (experiments proved Lee/Yang theory)
Chien-shiung Wu

Nobel laureates in medicine
Har Gobind Khorana
Susumu Tonegawa

AIDS researchers
Flossie Wong-Staal
David Da-i Ho

Information Specialist in Computer Security
Tsutomo Shimomura

Expert on Superconductivity Technology
Paul Ching-wu Chu

Sickle-Cell Disease Researcher
Constance Tom Noguchi

Stay Tuned and Keep Blogging!

Thanks for reading. Special thanks to Dr. Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist and Dr. Alberto Roca of for contributing materials to this month’s edition.  The next Diversity in Science Carnival in June will honor Pride Month. Stay tuned for the next host…

Sabrina Bonaparte is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Washington (for one more week!) She is the manager of the UW SACNAS Student Chapter blog.  

Student Spotlight: Savannah Benally

Name: Savannah Benally
Major:  Secondary Teacher Education
Year in School:  Master’s Program
Hometown:  Shiprock, New Mexico
Ethnicity:  Native American

After completing my Bachelor’s degree at New Mexico State University, I came to the University of Washington to continue studying biochemistry in the Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program. As I pursued my degree, working with community organizations to engage middle school students in science motivated my interest to teach general science. Upon completing a master’s degree in science, I began a teacher’s education program to become a middle school science teacher. I am excited to work with middle school students in tribal schools to encourage their pursuit of STEM careers.


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:

Celebrating Women in STEM

The history of our chapter begins with women, as a group of mostly women got together and founded our chapter in the summer of 2007.  They attended the SACNAS National Conference in Kansas City as the first event for a Registered Student Organization at the University of Washington. All of the women who founded our chapter have graduated and have moved on to greater things, but some are still closely involved with our chapter. Continuing members are Dr. Amber Caracol, who graduated from the UW in 2011 with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology and now teaches at UW Bothell and Seattle Central Community College, Dr. Tracie Delgado, an Assistant Professor at Northwest University who earned her PhD in Microbiology in 2011, and Amanda Bruner, who received an MS in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences in 2010 and who now works as a Research Scientist & Outreach Coordinator at Sound Citizen at the University of Washington. The other founders have moved on to careers outside of Seattle: Yolanda Sanchez, who earned an MS in Environmental Health and an MPA in Public Administration in 2007 and Dr. Charla Lambert, who earned a PhD in Genome Sciences in 2008, and works as a Program Manager for Science & Training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is a member of the newly-elected 2012 SACNAS Board of Directors.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there was also a male who helped establish our chapter, Dr. Ramon Mendoza, who earned his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2007 and works as a postdoc at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, but this post is about women, and particularly those women who shaped and continue to shape our chapter.

Profiles of Women

Below are profiles of some other women in our chapter. The first is a profile of Billie Swalla, a Biology professor who has been incredibly supportive of our SACNAS group. We all look to Dr. Swalla for support and guidance. The second is Tzitziki Lemus, a graduate student in Genome Sciences.

Also, be sure to check out the many other women we’ve profiled on our blog this year: Katrina Claw, Laurel James and Ruth Sims during Native American Heritage Month, Vanessa Galaviz, Patricia Montaño, Yuriana Garcia, and Faith Sims. There have also been several blog posts by female members of the chapter, such as Sabrina Bonaparte, who wrote about the implications of world population growth, Amanda Bruner, who wrote on Quantitative Advocacy and Productive Group Planning; the aforementioned Katrina Claw, who wrote about Communicating Science Effectively; Tracie Delgado, who wrote about transitioning from graduate student to faculty memberAmber Caracol and Laurel James, who tell us about their family histories and how they connect to shaping them as individuals,  and Erica Sanchez, who wrote about her experience at an all-women science outreach event for middle school girls last weekend.

Name: Bilie Swalla
Department: Biology
Role: Professor
Hometown: Madrid, Iowa

My research is on a complex, interdisciplinary problem, “How do body plans evolve?” Every animal begins as a single cell, a fertilized egg, that then divides into 2 cells, then 4 cells, then 16 cells, etc. As the embryo divides into more cells, different cells express different genes until you begin to make different tissues. These tissues continue to develop into different shapes and sizes, depending on the embryo. I am especially interested in the evolution of our body plan, which we share with all vertebrates and invertebrate chordates. My work with embryos is mostly done at marine labs, and I have worked all over the world on tunicates and hemichordates.

As a Postdoctoral Associate, I was funded one year by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), who were also studying why girls drop out of science in Junior High School. I learned of some of the unconscious bias that women can face in science and that stimulated a life long interest in how gender and ethnic bias affects our experiences in education and the workplace. I joined UW SACNAS in 2008, at the request of a few Biology graduate students, who knew of my interest in gender and bias in science, and I love the people that I’ve met through the UW local chapter. Everyone is so enthusiastic and friendly, it is hard not make a new friend at every meeting. I’ve seen many students graduate, and continue their sphere of influence and I believe that the UW SACNAS Chapter makes a very positive difference for increasing diversity on campus. I am very excited about being part of the local organizing committee. GO UW SACNAS!

Dr. Swalla’s CV is located below:

Name: Tzitziki J. Lemus Vergara
Major: Genome Sciences
Year in School: Third Year Graduate
Hometown:  Mexico
Ethnicity: Mexican

I am interested in how the environment can modify the development of organisms. I am currently studying how despite environmental and genetic differences, individuals from the same specie resemble physically to each other.

Besides research, I like to play soccer, reading, go salsa dancing, volunteer, and go out with my friends.