Stanford Postdoc JEDI Champion Awards are a recognition of current Stanford University postdoctoral scholars who have championed initiatives, activities, or efforts that advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at Stanford and beyond.
I am passionate about providing students opportunities and thoughtful, supportive mentorship to create and sustain an inclusive and equitable academia. My undergraduate mentor opened the door to academia for me, encouraging my interests in science and outreach. It is with her ethos that I lead the Community College Outreach Program, which provides mentorship and first research opportunities to underrepresented and underserved community college students. Seeing students grow in confidence throughout their internships is remarkable and makes me incredibly proud. My motivation is to move academia towards a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable space that is welcoming and supportive for everyone.
My work in JEDI stems from the community that raised me. I am privileged to have outstanding mentors and supportive family, friends, and colleagues. These people fuel my passion for research and mentorship of the next generation of scholars. Mentoring through programs such as the Stanford Center for Asian Health Research Scholars Program, the Human Biology Exploration Program, and the Stanford CVI Summer Research Program have been highlights of my postdoctoral experience. Although the work towards achieving equity appears long, I believe it is the collective effort to keep motivating the next generation of scholars, activists, and allies.
My research aims to understand neural mechanisms contributing to suboptimal outcomes in women (e.g., PTSD). Another vital facet of my research involves identifying social factors contributing to these outcomes and developing interventions to improve well-being and productivity (e.g., enhancing belonging). I foremost utilize portable fNIRS neuroimaging to elucidate single-brain and inter-brain functions in naturalistic environments. I also facilitate evidence-based empowerment workshops to increase self-awareness, work productivity, self-efficacy, and belonging among women scientists at Stanford University. As a NATO Human Factors Specialist, I contribute to women leadership and recommendations for human factors experimental standards for all 31 partner countries.
As a first-generation, low-income college student, I lacked the knowledge and financial resources to comfortably pursue an education beyond the high school level. My current academic success would not have been possible without intentional and concerted efforts toward JEDI at my past institutions. These efforts helped me traverse systemic barriers I encountered throughout my academic journey and gave me the perspective and skills necessary to address inequalities in academia. My motivation in this space stems from the desire to provide other first-generation students with the same opportunities I received throughout my career in hopes that they will accomplish their dreams.
In my vision of inclusive diversity, equity, and justice within academia, institutional and faculty-level commitment to curiosity, equity, and inclusion translates into classrooms and research labs where trainees, particularly individuals who are underrepresented in STEM, learn, feel belonging, and lead in their chosen career paths. My background in educational studies and experiences as an instructor for programming workshops, a Stanford grant writing coach, and a member of a task force focused on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the microbial sciences have reinforced my dedication to promoting an equitable and inclusive research and teaching environment as a faculty member.
I deeply believe that nobody should be deprived of health access because they were born in a specific environment. Together with Thiago de Almeida Pereira, Hope Leng, Narelli Paiva, and Kian Shaker, and with the support of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, I created the Stanford global health club, a group that meets monthly, invites speakers, and encourages interdisciplinary discussions. I am proud to see the club flourish into more than a meeting place, giving rise to friendships, fresh ideas and collaborations. This award is a tribute to our collective work on increasing health access for all.
My motivation is a hopeful one in that one day, I will not have to spend the majority of my time as being the "only." This inherent motivation to diversity STEM and academia drives me to pursue JEDI-related activities to create a more equitable society. My greatest passion related to JEDI work is helping create frameworks that can modify a broken system and mentoring undergraduate and graduate trainees to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.
Exposure to early research experiences and nurturing mentors allowed me to flavor science with my own spices, which markedly improved my graduate and post-doctoral research trajectories and increased my confidence in pursuing novel research ideas. Owing to these experiences, my long-term goals are to maintain a consistent effort in guiding and mentoring trainees originating from historically underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. To sum it up: I am driven, but not everybody can fit in my car. The least I can do is help you get your own license for success.
Wanting to help others became one of my core values at a very early age. Throughout my life, I have seen people hurt due to the mere fact of not fitting restrictive societal standards, and I cannot help but take their pain personally. I am a queer, Hispanic woman in STEM and I experience the lack of representation firsthand, which combined with a deep interest in better understanding people around me makes me want to turn our society into a more inclusive place, starting with the tiny bubble of privilege I find myself in.
How can we nurture the diverse spirits, minds, and languages of youth and educators in schools? How can we use liberatory religious literacy curricula to combat religious racism? All of my service focuses on the intersections of race, religion, and language in education. My research examines how deficit ideologies of race, religion, and language are related. With my podcast on YouTube and Spotify, I employ interview and oral history methods to reach an international audience, because narratives are important tools for creating windows and mirrors for student belonging. My next steps are creating open-access curricula based on the interviews.
I believe that building an inclusive culture is critical to achieving true justice and diversity in STEM. I have found that changing a culture can start small, by questioning daily practices, norms, and values, but grows to have a big impact. I owe my scientific career to dedicated mentors who have championed my work, and I strive to empower other women and minoritized scientists by supporting them in kind. I am constantly learning from the students that I work with – their passion, creativity, and kindness inspires me to build the community of STEM that they deserve.
When I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 9 months old, a neurologist told my parents I would never live a normal life. I consider it an ironic blessing that my career has taken me to the Stanford School of Medicine where I use bioethics as a tool to challenge the ableist assumptions behind that neurologist's grim prediction. This award is truly an honor, but my efforts on behalf of disability and LGBTQ+ communities have never felt that extraordinary. I have simply advocated for myself and taught individuals and institutions along the way.
I have always found community outreach and mentoring to be an extremely rewarding experience. I am a mentor for the Stanford Academic Transition Advising Program (ATAP) and serve on the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee. I have had the great pleasure of being a guest speaker for local schools and I look forward to helping build an inclusive community as a facilitator for the Pathways to Neuroscience program in the coming year. I am inspired and motivated by the DEI efforts of faculty, staff and leadership in my department.
At many points in my life, I have been fortunate enough to have mentors that invested their time in my path towards a scientific career. Their guidance has been instrumental in navigating the academic world, especially as a first-generation student. An instrumental focus of my career centers on making it a priority to offer similar opportunities to students of all backgrounds through mentorship, outreach, and teaching. A big part of my JEDI efforts at Stanford have been centered on continuing and expanding the Diverse Perspective Seminar Series, with a mission to increase diversity in academia and the broader research community.
I come from a low income family and began my academic journey in community college. There, my classmates were richly diverse: of many nationalities, young and old, parents or caregivers, international students, first generation college students—the majority of us low income, serious, and working. I had passionate science teachers, but there was no research on campus and I began conducting research only after I transferred to a large public university. Quickly, I found that I was behind my peers who had started in the lab as freshmen. I didn’t believe I could get into a graduate program, so I worked in industry after college. Yet, my curiosity for neuroscience drew me back to academia and to inspiring mentors who believed in me and supported my dreams. I am driven to pay forward their gift of mentorship to the community of students I come from, many of whom face greater challenges than I and who are well deserving of opportunity.
To me, championing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion begins with recognizing the many dimensions of diversity, paying attention to both the visible and invisible aspects of identity. Each of us has faced challenges unique to our individual circumstances which may be unknown to others. These experiences forever change the way we see the world around us. I believe the invisible struggles that shape who we are and how we live are just as important as the visible traits that form the basis of our identities. It is my goal to support, promote, and celebrate the visible as well as the invisible diversity unique to members of the Stanford community.