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! 


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.


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:

Student Spotlight: Faith Sims

Name: Faith Sims
Major: Pre-Engineering
Year in School: Freshman
Ethnicity: Navajo/Sioux/Cherokee


My name is Faith Sims. I’m half Navajo and my clan is red house. I’m born and raised in Seattle, WA. I have been with SACNAS since my senior year in High school, and as an incoming freshman I nominated myself for historian. I am currently Pre-engineering, but I hope to pursue Civil/Environmental Engineering, and a minor in Spanish. With this degree, I plan to design and build water system in places where water resources are scarce. After the University of Washington, I hope to join Peace Corp and travel for missionary work. As for SACNAS, I hope to document our chapter providing a good image of who we are as Natives and Hispanics in science fields at the University of Washington.

February is African American History Month

This week’s blog post is in honor of African American History Month and will be in similar format to our post back in November for Native American Heritage Month. Our SACNAS chapter is incredibly diverse, and unlike many other chapters across the country, we have several African American members. These next few posts will feature the story and experiences of one of these members, in following with the online community’s embrace of personal storytelling as a form of the expression of the diversity in sciences, such as #iamscience and This is What a Scientist Looks Like.

The African American Population

According to the 2010 US Census, 13.6% of the American population is Black or African American. This report also indicates that the African American population is growing at a faster rate than the population as a whole. The increase in the Black population (or any minority population for that matter) has ramifications for institutions such as higher education, which will see an increase in African Americans due to the growing population.

African Americans in Higher Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 9.8% of the bachelors degrees conferred in 2008-2009 were to African Americans.  7.8% of males who received degrees were Black, and 11.3% of females were Black. For doctoral degrees, 6.5% were conferred to Blacks; 4.6% of males were Black, and 8.3% of females were Black. There are several reasons for the underrepresentation of Black males in higher education, which this blog post will not address. Recently, Shaun Harper conducted a study on successful black males in academia by drawing from a samples of males who had already been successful. This approach to the study allowed for very interesting policy recommendations for universities to follow to increase the number of successful Black males on campus.

At the university of Washington, 2.6% of Bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2008-2009 were to Black students, 2.8% of Master’s Degrees, 1.2% of Professional Degrees and 1.2% of Doctorates were awarded to Black students. All of this is below the African American population of Washington state, which is 3.6%.

The African American Community at the University of Washington

Just over 40 years ago, several students from the Black Student Union took over president Odeggard’s office and this sit-in changed the way the University of Washington viewed diversity. It was this sit-in that led to the creation of programs such as the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and the Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program and the creation of the space known as the Ethnic Cultural Center.

The Black Student Union and Black Student Commission continues to have a strong presence on campus. Currently, the UW also has a National Society of Black Engineers Chapter, a Black Law Students Association, the Association of Black Business Students, and some students are starting a chapter of the National Black Graduate Student Association.

African Americans in STEM Fields  

According to the most recent data from the National Science Foundation, Black males are 4.6% of all enrolled undergraduate students in science and engineering fields in 2008. Women comprise 8.1% of students in STEM fields. Additionally, African Americans comprise 5.9% of all bachelors degrees awarded in STEM fields.

Blacks comprise only 6.4% of the national graduate student population in the sciences in 2009. For engineering, the number is only 2.9%. Black females comprise 8.4% of the female graduate student graduate population in the sciences and men are 4.4% of the male population. Black males are 2.1% of the population of both genders of those enrolled in graduate fields in sciences and engineering. Blacks comprised 3.1% of those granted doctorate degrees in science and engineering in 2009.

Our student spotlight for this post is an African American male in Engineering. Although he is not one of the respondents in Shaun Harper’s aforementioned studies, he very well could have been. You will also be hearing more from Keon himself tomorrow.

Student Spotlight: Keon Vereen

Keon Vereen
Major:  Aerospace Engineering
Year: 1st Year Graduate
Hometown: Orlando, FL
Ethnicity: African American

I am a PhD student at the University of Washington majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Within my department, I am working with the plasma physics group. My research interests are focused on advanced in-space propulsion, experimental plasma physics, and plasma thruster development.

I am also involved in educational outreach initiatives to promote diversity within the science and engineering fields.

When I have free time, I like to go for a swim or run as well as hang out with my friends.

Student Spotlight: Yuríana Garcia

Name: Yuríana Garcia
Major:  Intended Bioengineering
Year in School: 2nd Year Undergraduate
Ethnicity: Hispanic

My name is Yuriana, I am a second year undergraduate at the UW. Early in my adolescence I found my passion for learning. It was in my biology class I was blown away by material presented to me. It was there that my journey in the sciences began. I was also very interested in engineering and technology, and so I decided to major in bioengineering with the hope to one day be able to do research that includes both the innovation of new technology and the biology of human species. I have worked on various research projects from studying techniques to analyze and sequence DNA molecules in the human genome in the Parvis Lab to examining the role of an enzyme in methanol metabolism in the Lidstrom Lab. In my free time I like to read, volunteer, listen to music, hike, and dance .

Student Spotlight: Andrew Barr

Name: Andrew Barr
Major: Applied Math
Year in School: Senior
Ethnicity: Peruvian-American
Hometown: Washington D.C.

My current studies and research at the University of Washington focus on applied math and high performance computing (HPC). My current research group, under professor Nathan Kutz, is creating software for American Sign Language recognition on smartphones. I recently was awarded a Mary Gates Scholarship to support this. I have been privileged to take a number of graduate courses as an undergraduate, and am currently applying to graduate programs in applied math.

Please visit Andrew’s website for more information on his academic career, his intentions in graduate school, his CV and his contact information.