Wm Edelman’s Mid-Spring Quarter Brief

The University of Washington SACNAS chapter engages local community colleges as part of its effort to mentor newly minted regional SACNAS chapters and hopes to inspire STEM students to seek leadership roles, and start SACNAS chapters on their campuses. In order to achieve ongoing community building across undergraduate institutions, UW SACNAS strives to network with undergraduates at the local colleges. Recently, the UW chapter welcomed the Bellevue College (BC) Chapter (WA) to one of its monthly meetings to encourage the exchange of ideas and student-driven resources. In the future UW SACNAS students will be presenting their research at BC and interacting more with their new network. BC students now have a full-fledged SACNAS chapter and we hope we can continue to work together to promote scientific diversity and community in the Puget Sound area.

The newest connection was established with Shoreline Community College (SCC) students at the 2013 annual Shoreline-wide science fair and STEM Career expo.  UW comparative medicine research scientist, Ray Koelling, organized this eventIMAG0417 and invited UW SACNAS students to provide a hands-on science activity for the day. Genome Science PhD students, Daniel Chee and William Edelman attended the career expo and displayed live zebrafish and fruit flies for scientific observation. As well as provided an overview of some analytical chemistry techniques used in William’s thesis laboratory at UW. Students in grades 4-12 were instructed to identify variation in the animals’ physical features characteristics and were encouraged to think about how DNA could code for such features. Even if the younger students hadn’t yet formerly learned about genetics, the simple explanation of the molecular players and concepts began to inspire questions like, “do I have DNA, too?” Which usually lead to further curiosity and interest by many of the visitors. Simply engaging the imagination quickly leads students to at least ponder the concept of the observed biological phenomena. Even unassuming parents began to ask questions about the relevance of such knowledge and contemplated biological questions they hadn’t considered since their last formal biology class. William and Daniel lead these demonstrations for dozens of aspiring STEM students.


As a result of the visit to the SCC, UW-SACNAS recently returned to present scientific research to the SCC Undergraduate Science Club. The goal was to provide these students with a glimpse of graduate level work in the life sciences and open the doors for questions about academic research and how they might pursue advanced degrees in science. The chapter wishes to invite the SCC science club to the UW campus for a visit and provide some community to those who wish to transfer to the University in the future.

The UW chapter welcomes more interactions with diverse groups in the greater Seattle area from high schools to colleges, and it will honor its mission to achieve diversity in the sciences.

Keep coming back for more brief updates and photos about student-led activities by SACNAS UW!


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!)

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.

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
Website: http://faculty.washington.edu/bjswalla/

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.

Guest Blog: Productive Group Planning

I spend a lot of my time collaborating with different groups, planning opportunities for communities to interact with scientists, and I’ve developed a slightly frightening habit in the last few months of enthusiastically blurting out, “Let’s use a logic model to plan our next event!”  Logic models have become indispensable tools in my professional work because they require articulation of project goals, objectives, activities, resources and expected outcomes. Read on and be prepared to publicly declare your nerd love of this handy planning tool.

 What is a logic model?

Many versions of logic models exist and they’re used for a variety of purposes, but generally they’re tools that identify why you’re doing a project, what you’re doing and what you expect to get out of it.  For the rest of this post I’ll share their use in the context of planning an event or activity, and from the viewpoint of a scientist who has cannibalized parts of the process that have best fit my needs in project planning with collaborators.

Why use logic models?


If you’re planning with a group, I highly suggest creating a draft logic model before your first meeting, especially if logic models are new to the group.  This can be done on Google documents and shared with other members of the planning group.  Then members can review the draft and make comments (using different colored font helps track changes) or come to the meeting prepared to discuss the draft.  I’ve found this process creates a structure for dialogue that prevents becoming mired in a brainstorm of activities and sets up the group to make decisions more efficiently.

Enhancing collaboration

Effective collaborations require identifying the needs and interests of all involved individuals and organizations, and where interests overlap.  Identifying partner motivations is not always easy, especially when organizations with different cultures are interacting.  Logic models provide a tool for participants to clearly articulate their interests and a way to identify overlapping motivations by crafting large-picture goals and objectives as a group.

Anchoring ideas

Often, people have lots of good ideas for activities to do for events or projects and planning conversations get mired in discussions of possible activities. Decisions about what activities we choose to do for a project result from balancing constraints of available resources and what we’re trying to accomplish.  Logic models provide a concrete framework to identify these factors, making decisions about prioritizing or editing activities much easier, especially if the project expands and needs to be called back to a manageable size.

Maximizing benefits

While we hope that our projects go well, how will we know that our event or program was successful? What evidence will we use for grant proposals or reports to demonstrate success?  Using logic models ensures that you will know what information you want to collect to document success and help you effectively articulate the impacts of your project.

A logic model for scientists

After a year of helping to plan programs and events as part of my position at SoundCitizen, I finally realized I needed a better set of tools to be able to assess if a project was a success (program evaluation!).  I spent a morning with professional evaluator Dr. Andrea Anderson and Dr. Tansy Clay.  Andi patiently explained the theory of logic models and their use in planning and evaluation to two unpracticed scientists.  The result of that training was this tool – a Logic model for scientists.

How to use “Logic Model for Scientists”

Example of the ‘Logic Model for Scientists’


The first section you should tackle are the goals. The point of this part of the model is to place your program or event in the large picture – as Andi explained them, the goals are the “lofty humdingers.”  The grandiose impacts or changes you hope your actions will accomplish.  I’m not going to lie – the first time I did this part of the model and even in subsequent use, leading a group through discussing this part feels really odd (especially with scientists) but as the planning moves forward the goals provide critical touchstones that allow you to keep perspective and make decisions based on common goals.


Next, you should identify your objectives. Objectives are the smaller, more specific and measurable goals that will help you achieve your lofty goals.  What’s the difference between a goal and objective?  While goals are broad and can’t really be validated, objectives are more narrow and concrete.  Many agencies and management professionals employ SMART criteria when creating objectives. This means the objectives are:


Figuring out how to create good SMART objectives isn’t easy the first few times, but I guarantee once you’ve had some practice, these objectives are life-savers in keeping planning and group discussions focused and productive.   If you’re interested in learning more about setting SMART objectives, here is a handout with diagnostic questions that will give you more information about setting productive objectives.

Activities & Resources

Once your goals and objectives are outlined, you’re ready to start brainstorming the activities that will support accomplishing your objectives.  You will likely find yourself going back and forth between identifying activities and considering the resources you have on-hand to accomplish them.  I have approached this part of the model by brainstorming possible activities, then editing based on available resources and by evaluating which activities best support accomplishing my objectives.


The outcomes section helps you develop what evidence are you going to look at to determine if you accomplished what you set out to do.  Outcomes are extremely valuable for documenting the impact of your activity or event, understanding how you will evaluate what went well and reflecting how things could be changed in future efforts to better accomplish objectives.  While it may not always be an appropriate use of your time and energy to create an extensive list with short, mid and long-term outcomes it’s worth spending some time considering outcomes to maximize the benefit from the energy you put into the project.

Amanda Bruner is a Research Scientist & Outreach Coordinator at the University of Washington.  Her current position with SoundCitizen is focused on broadening public participation in environmental research.

Student Spotlight: Patricia Montaño

Name: Patricia (Patty) Montaño
Major: Museology
Year in School: Second Year Masters
Ethnicity: Bolivian

Patricia (Patty) Montaño graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA with a Bachelor of Art in Biology in 2004. In Spring 2011 she completed a Master’s in Science in Biology from the University of Washington. Though a science nerd, Patty also studied dance, and the piano from a young age through her undergraduate years. Her work in education inspired her to pursue a career in museums where she could invite the public to consider the personal and cultural significances of science. Her past museum experiences have been as a docent and developer of bilingual materials at the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse, and co-creator of a summer camp at the Conservatory at Volunteer Park in Seattle. Once she completes her M.A. in Museology in 2012,  she looks forward to bringing her multi-disciplinary interests together to produce exciting public programs for museum visitors of all ages and backgrounds. 

Patricia’s CV can be found here


Welcome to the UW SACNAS Chapter Blog!

We are excited to launch our new chapter blog! We hope will keep all of our followers updated on the many activities of our chapter, in addition to providing a resource for anyone interested in higher education. The blog will feature our students as spotlights but also as guest bloggers, as they share  their experiences navigating their scientific careers through college and beyond.

Also, November is Native American Heritage Month, and to celebrate, we will be focusing on the Native American students in our chapter as well as the campus and community activities that focus on Native Americans. Please check back soon, and thanks for following our blog!