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Developing a Science Identity at ABRCMS

Published December 19, 2018

During the second week of November 2018, CSULB BUILD trainees had the opportunity to attend the 18th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS) in Indianapolis, Ind. For many of them, this was their first professional conference, as well as their first opportunity to present their research at this level.

Before the SURGE program, which is the first phase of the Scholars program for new trainees, Hannah Rattu Mandias had limited experience with research. She said that ABRCMS was the perfect environment for undergraduate students who had never presented before. “The conference provided poster presentation practice rooms, which helped me a lot in terms of practicing effectively beforehand,” she said.

Hannah Mandias and Madison Kane
Year One Scholars Hannah Rattu Mandias and Madison Kane earned certificates for their poster presentations

The practice paid off for Mandias, a Marine Biology major, as she received an award for outstanding poster presentation in the developmental biology and genetics category. Madison Kane, a Biomedical Engineering major, also took home an award for her poster presentation in the engineering, physics and mathematics, chemistry category.

"I really loved presenting at ABRCMS!" said Angelica Flameno, a Psychology major. She also enjoyed learning about the research of fellow undergraduates. "My favorite part of the conference was going to all of the oral presentations because many of them were very inspiring and sparked my interest in different areas of research.”

ABRCMS Experience Builds a Sense of Community

CSULB BUILD has students from four colleges on campus: Health and Human Services (CHHS), Liberal Arts (CLA), Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM), and Engineering (COE). Alexis Medrano, an Exercise Science major from CHHS, said that going to ABRCMS gave her the opportunity to get to know more people in her cohort, especially those from other colleges.

Christine Tang and Alexis Medrano
Christine Tang (College of Engineering) and Alexis Medrano (College of Health and Human Services)

Beyond getting to know fellow CSULB BUILD Scholars, ABRCMS also provided a window to undergraduate research throughout the United States. “I enjoyed supporting my peers, as well as hearing of all the amazing work students are doing,” said Medrano.

"Through ABRCMS I was able to acquaint myself with other young researchers from across the country,” added Mandias, “as well as faculty members who shared similar research interests.”

Exploring Graduate School Options

Many graduate school programs use ABRCMS as part of their recruiting process, so students have the opportunity to learn about the wide variety of graduate schools and research they can consider for their next educational step after graduation.

Maxine Robinette, a Psychology major, appreciated getting a "feel" for each graduate school and summer program through conversations with recruiters. And Elizabeth Gutierrez, a Food Science major, found the graduate school booths to be insightful. “I truly enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with so many schools and be able to have that face to face contact with their representatives,” said Medrano.

Identifying as a Scientist

Research by Jan E. Stets, Ph.D., et. al. have found that one of the strongest predictors of pursuing a science-related career was having a solid science identity. “We find that the science identity positively impacts the likelihood of entering a science occupation,” they wrote in their paper, “The science identity and entering a science occupation,” published in Social Science Research 64 (2017). “It also serves as a mediator for other factors that are related to educational success.”

Year One Scholars Joel Sandoval, Lillian Wang and Alyssa Gimenez at ABRCMS 2018
Year One Scholars Joel Sandoval, Lillian Wang and Alyssa Gimenez at ABRCMS 2018

Being immersed in the scientific community that attends professional conferences such as ABRCMS, as well as gaining experience presenting their research, helped BUILD Scholars gain confidence as researchers and more deeply develop their science identity. "Presenting at the conference made me feel like a more confident presenter and researcher," said Robinette.

Both Mandias and Alyssa Gimenez, a Health Science major, said the ABRCMS experience motivated them to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in research. “Being in an 100% scientific atmosphere really refreshed my outlook on research,” said Gimenez.

Along with identifying as a scientist, trainees were also able to develop their sense of belonging in a scientific environment. While attending a workshop on “Imposter Syndrome,” the sense that you don’t really know what you are doing and that you are a fraud, Robinette had an “aha!” moment. In the middle of a talk she “felt so connected and relatable to everyone around me who struggles with feeling smart and competent.”

A Valuable Experience for BUILD Trainees

In addition to presentation opportunities and meeting graduate school recruiters, ABRCMS attendees also had access to a variety of workshops, scientific sessions, and professional development sessions. Providing experiences like these is an integral part of the CSULB BUILD program, which aims to increase the diversity of the health-related research workforce through supporting and encouraging students who might otherwise not have considered a career in science.

ABRCMS 2018 Gallery

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