Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

I am deeply aware of the barriers to success in education and research that currently exist for people from underrepresented backgrounds and communities that have been historically excluded from higher education and science. I witnessed these firsthand at various points throughout my training. Particularly, I have seen extremely brilliant scientists leave academia due to a lack of culturally-responsible support and adequate mentoring across different departments or institutions. My ultimate goal is to ensure that future students from marginalized communities will have access to the essential resources, support, and network they need to thrive in their careers. I also recognize that efforts to create an equitable and inclusive lab environment must extend beyond underrepresented and excluded racial and ethnic minority groups, and encompass factors such as low socioeconomic status, disability status, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

My Latina background and lived experiences contribute to my mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I did not have professors who came from similar backgrounds, making it hard to imagine that my dream of pursuing a career in science could become a reality. Thus, my career goal has been to excel in academic biomedical science, not only because of my interest in scientific advancement, but also because I am passionate about driving systemic change from within academia. I have made efforts to not only educate myself about the history of marginalized communities in the U.S., but also follow and stay up to date with the current literature and scholarship on DEI issues and efforts in academic science. I believe these are necessary steps towards change both in and out of the professional domain. Beyond promoting excellence in scientific discoveries, I strongly believe that using equity and inclusion as guiding principles to increase diversity in academic settings will promote excellence in the education and cultural competence of our future society.

As part of my commitment to increasing equity and inclusion, I received training on evidence-based education practices to increase the inclusion of underrepresented students in science. This training was a part being an Inclusive Excellence fellow at Mercy College, a program that started in 2019 as part of the Inclusive Excellence Initiative funded by HHMI. This fellowship was aimed at training future faculty educators in pedagogical practices to substantially and sustainably increase the inclusion of all students in STEM fields, especially those from groups historically underrepresented in science. The training was based on recognizing that not all students learn the same way and understanding that students from underrepresented backgrounds face significant barriers to success in higher education and particularly, STEM fields. Thus, by applying evidence-based inclusive and high-impact practices, such as metacognition and project-, active-, and inquiry-based learning, educators can create inclusive learning spaces to support students and promote their success both in and out of the classroom. 

I will integrate my lived experiences with my education from DEI scholarship to build an equitable and inclusive lab environment. The core values of my program are community, inclusivity, integrity, and leadership; together they create the foundation that will lead to innovation and scientific discoveries. Beyond my pledge to personalized mentorship tailored individually for each member of my research team, these core values will shape our lab environment by establishing the basis for a collaborative team-based network, culturally-appropriate interactions, and a comprehensive “people-first” approach to science. 


My experience as a mentee and participation in various career development programs has led me to develop an individualized strength-based mentoring philosophy. This philosophy recognizes that not all students learn the same way or will have the same needs. Therefore, identifying the mentoring expectations and needs early in the mentoring relationship is crucial for success. To accomplish an individualized mentoring program, trainees who join the lab will first meet with me one-on-one to discuss both my and their needs and expectations, how do they learn best, how do they address challenges, how do they best receive feedback, what do they hope to gain from their time in my laboratory, etc. Additionally, strength-based mentoring focuses on developing each individual’s strengths. Instead of a deficit-based approach that can lead to negative experiences and dependency, strength-based mentoring constructively focuses on the trainee’s existing strengths to navigate challenges and solve problems. By empowering mentees to identify and utilize their own strengths, my goal is to provide them with the tools that they need to succeed beyond their time in my laboratory. Lastly, I am also a strong supporter of peer mentoring. Therefore, I have developed a laboratory structure in which senior members (postdocs and post-candidacy graduate students) mentor junior members (pre-candidacy graduate, undergraduate, and high school students). Each junior member is assigned a senior lab member to report to and reach out to for help. Senior lab members provide technical training in the lab but also mentor junior members on how to navigate work-school-life balance and provide support as needed. As junior members grow in the laboratory, they move on to serve as senior peer mentors for new junior lab members. 

Above all, I believe that respect in the laboratory environment is extremely important. For trainees to feel comfortable engaging in meaningful discussions and expressing their opinions and problems, there has to be a respectful environment in place. Differing opinions or problems among lab members must be addressed in a thoughtful and respectful manner, and I expect all of my trainees to support this tenet. I understand this can sometimes be hard to navigate, especially since students come from varied backgrounds and experiences, but I believe that respect is the key to successful learning. Thus, discrimination on any basis is not tolerated by me as a mentor—a principle that is actively instilled in my mentees.