Diversity in STEM at the 45th SACNAS Anniversary Conference in San Antonio

ICT editorial team

Nearly 4,000 STEM Leaders & Students and Diversity in STEM at the 45th SACNAS Anniversary Conference in San Antonio

Nearly 4,000 STEM leaders, scientists, academics, researchers, professionals and college students will converge on the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center from October 11-13, 2018 for the country’s largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event. The 2018 National Diversity in STEM Conference is hosted by Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), a broadly inclusive organization with a 45-year history of fostering and promoting success for underrepresented minorities in STEM.

This year’s keynote speakers include Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in Space and former Director of NASA Johnson Space Center (2013-2018); Dr. Lauren Esposito, Curator of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences and Founder of 500 Queer Scientists; Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre, Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the first Alaska Native to earn a PhD in microbiology; Ed Yong, Science Writer at The Atlantic, and the First Lady of San Antonio Erika Prosper-Nirenberg, who will convene the conference.

In addition, the conference will feature a voter registration booth hosted by March for Science as well as many scientific symposia and professional development workshops on relevant topics, including Becoming a Resilient Scientist, Strategies to Increase Equity in STEM PhD Programs, and Improving Work Climate - Responding to Sexual Harassment.


John D. Winnett

Executive Director, SACNAS

John Winnett currently serves as the Executive Director of SACNAS. Mr. Winnett has over 17 years experience as a nonprofit and political fundraiser. He also has extensive experience in government relations and strategic partnership development. Mr. Winnett earned a BA from Cumberland University. He is a first generation college graduate and truly believes in the power of education to transform lives.

Dr. Lino Gonzalez

President, SACNAS Board of Directors

Dr. Lino Gonzalez is a Senior Scientist in the Protein Chemistry Department at a major California-based biotechnology company where he oversees a Receptor Discovery Biochemistry group focused on the study of therapeutically important protein-receptor interactions. In addition to his research, Dr. Gonzalez has been a strong proponent for broadening participation within the STEM workforce. Dr. Gonzalez was recognized with a Diversity Champion corporate award in 2005 for his contributions. He has served two 3-year terms (2006-2011) on the SACNAS Board, and been part of numerous committees within the organization.

Dr. Sonia Zárate

President-Elect, SACNAS

Dr. Sonia Zárate has a Ph.D. in plant molecular biology. Dr. Zárate has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM, both in the public and private sectors. In her current role as Program Officer at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Dr. Zárate is part of the team working to catalyze institutional change through culturally responsive mentor training of fellowship advisors. Previously, she was the Director for the University of San Diego’s Office of Undergraduate Research and also served as the Associate Director for the Undergraduate Research Center-Sciences at UC Los Angeles. At both USD and UCLA, she administered undergraduate research programs, some of which were aimed at increasing diversity in the sciences.

Dr. Corey Welch

Board Member, SACNAS

Director of the STEM Scholars Program for Underrepresented Students, Iowa State University

Dr. Corey Welch (Northern Cheyenne) is a trained mammalogist with a BS in Biology from Lewis & Clark College, an MA in Systematics & Ecology from the University of Kansas, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington. He was a NIH-IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow and a lecturer at Haskell Indian Nations University. Prior to establishing the program he runs at Iowa State, Dr. Welch was the research coordinator for the Biology Scholars Program at UC Berkeley. He has committed his career toward improving the success of underrepresented students in STEM careers and pushing our academic institutions to implement the latest research on student success in the sciences.


Dr. Marina Suarez

Assistant Professor in Geological Sciences, University of Texas San Antonio

Dr. Marina Suarez is a San Antonio native who has a dinosaur named after her. Dr. Suarez and her twin sister, also a paleontologist, discovered a new species in Utah that was dubbed Geminiraptor suaresarum. In Spring of 2016, Marina received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. It included a nearly $500K grant to support her research on Cretaceous rocks around the world, which she hopes will advance climate change studies.

Christopher Ponce

Research Assistant at Oregon Health & Science University

Christopher Ponce is currently a Research Assistant at Oregon Health & Science University with a BS in Mathematics from Texas Tech University who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at age 4. Thanks to his DACA status he received scholarships and research funding from Texas Tech’s Center for Integration of STEM Education and Research (CISER) he otherwise wouldn't have qualified for. Being DACAmented also allowed him to travel internationally on medical mission trips. Christopher is skilled in Cell Culture, In Vivo, Laboratory Animal Medicine, Research, and In Vitro.

Evelyn Valdez-Ward

Graduate Student, University of California, Irvine

Evelyn Valdez-Ward is currently a second year PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine. Her work focuses on the effects of climate change on the interactions between plants and their soil microbes. Ultimately, she aims to become a strong and effective advocate for strategies to mitigate climate change, and continue her professional development in science policy. In addition to her research, she strongly advocates and mobilizes STEM fields to protect Dreamers. She was recently published in Science for her article “I’m an undocumented scientist fighting for my dream." She is a student member of SACNAS.

Kricia Ruano Espinoza

Graduate Student, Fisk/Vanderbilt

Kricia Ruano Espinoza arrived in Oregon from San Salvador in grade school. She excelled in high school, graduating with high honors. This year, she graduated from Willamette University with a double major in chemistry and physics and still found time to serve as a medical Spanish-language interpreter at a free clinic and work as an ER medical scribe at Salem Hospital. On top of that, as a Willamette Webber Scholar, Kricia designed and taught physics lessons for fifth graders at a local elementary school. She will be attending the Fisk/Vanderbilt master’s program in physics in the fall and was recently awarded the American Chemical Society Women Chemists Committee 2018 Overcoming Challenges Award. It is a national annual designation awarded to only one recipient, making it both a highly prestigious and competitive awarded.

Dr. Rodolfo Jimenez, Jr.

Director of STEM Initiatives, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence

As a STEM Coordinator, Dr. Rodolfo Jimenez, Jr. is responsible for providing academically assistance to Life Sciences students, as well as advising students seeking to attend a health profession programs or graduate school after completion of their undergraduate degree. Dr. Jimenez is a native Texan from the Rio Grande Valley area. He obtained a B.S. in biochemistry from Texas State University and his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. His dissertation focused on the characterization of the cytoplasmic domain of the anthrax toxin receptors. Dr. Jimenez has been involved in helping underrepresented minorities succeed in STEM, primarily through the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES) and SACNAS. Currently, Dr. Jimenez sits on the advisory board for STEMed Labs, a nonprofit aimed at closing the gap in STEM education for the underserved in Austin, and on the Hispanic Quality of Life Commission for the City of Austin.



For more than 45 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM. Today, the organization serves nearly 6,000 members and has over 115 student and professional chapters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences a larger STEM community of over 25,000 through outreach, advocacy, and production of the National Diversity in STEM Conference.

Learn more about SACNAS at sacnas.org, Facebook, or Twitter


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