Throughout our journeys, we were lucky to have mentors who invested in us, whether it was through mentorship, providing access to research opportunities or making us aware of fellowship opportunities. We believe that everyone deserves to have someone who can push forward potential and guide him/her along the way.
The Científico Latino Project comes from a drive to increase the pool of minority scientists and professionals by creating a platform where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or immigration status—has equal access to fellowship and scholarship opportunities, and the chance to learn from their peers to becoming successful STEM professionals and other related fields.
Robert W. Fernandez, PhD (he/him/his)
Co-founder; Executive Co-Director
Rob will be starting a post-doc at Columbia University this Fall 2020 working in the Oliver Hobert lab studying C. elegans neuroscience. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry at Yale University in March 2020, and is also a 2014 PD Soros Fellow. He was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in New Jersey where he went to community college to received his Associates of Arts Degree in Business Administration at Union County College. He went on to receive his Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from York College, City University of New York.
Growing up, he was undocumented for 20 years which made pursuing higher education difficult; however, due to the support of his family and STEM mentors at York college, this motivated him to pursue higher education in STEM despite obstacles and he became the first scientist in his family. He previously worked on studying the social behavior of fruit flies and is currently mapping every neurotransmitter receptor in the nervous system of the nematode C. elegans.
While pursuing his Ph.D. at Yale, he prioritized mentoring undergraduates in the research lab and at Yale to teach them to be independent researchers and to help their professional development by providing access to STEM opportunities; he worked as the STARS II coordinator, where he mentored 24 STARS II students from underrepresented background and defines this experience as the best part of his doctoral studies. He aims to change the STEM narrative by making STEM accessible to everyone and help underrepresented students succeed in STEM.
Olivia Goldman (she/her/hers)
Co-founder; Executive Co-Director
Olivia is a neuroscientist and graduate student studying chemosensory perception in mosquitoes at Rockefeller University. She is a co-founder and chief creative officer of the immersive media company NeuroStorm Studios. Previously, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience & Behavior at Barnard College of Columbia University, and then worked as a research technician in the lab of Nobel prize winner Dr. Eric Kandel. She is passionate about making science accessible to anyone who is curious.
Daisy Duan (she/her/hers)
STEM Education & Outreach Director; GSMI Digital Education Director
Daisy Duan is a Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry graduate student at Yale University. Born and raised in Brooklyn NY, she is proud to be a first-generation Chinese-American. Having grown up in a multicultural neighborhood for 18 years and eventually moving to Baltimore for college, Daisy felt inclined to share her perspective and coming-of-age experiences with the Johns Hopkins student community. She hopes to promote for greater use of cultural and social wealth within student groups, and help build new cross-cultural experiences throughout graduate school.
Mindy Le (she/her/hers)
Blog Editor in Chief
Mindy is a recent graduate of Yale University, earning a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. She currently works as a research assistant in the Yale Department of Immunobiology, studying B cell development in Dr. Eric Meffre’s lab. Mindy is passionate about increasing scientific literacy in society and is motivated to improve communication in science. After her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam, Mindy was born and raised in Titusville, FL.
Carlos Rico, PhD (he/him/his)
Lead Outreach & Workshop Coordinator; GSMI Data Analysis Director
Carlos Rico grew up in Leon, Mexico where he nurtured his scientific curiosity by playing with his toy microscope and chemistry set. In 2006, he enrolled in Hamilton College where he majored in chemical physics with a minor in biology. Looking to apply his chemistry knowledge to solve biomedical problems, he pursued doctoral studies in the Tri-Institutional training program in chemical biology in NYC. Carlos joined the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Sakmar at the Rockefeller University where he developed new biophysical tools to probe G-protein coupled receptor ligand-binding interactions at the single-molecule scale. To support his research efforts, Carlos was awarded the NSF graduate research fellowship in 2012. During this time, Carlos enjoyed teaching and mentoring that after graduation he joined the imaging core facility at Rockefeller. Seeking to expand his mentoring role outside the university, Carlos joined Cientifico Latino where he hopes to inspire, motivate, and help young underrepresented STEM students pursue a scientific career and become successful scientists and engineers.
GSMI Outreach & Digital Marketing Director
Gwenaëlle graduated with honors from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2016, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in psychology. As an alumna of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, Gwenaëlle has applied the Meyerhoff philosophy and mentorship models to continue increasing access to higher education and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Currently, Gwenaëlle is a neurobiology PhD Candidate at Duke University where she is co-advised by Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, MD, PhD and Dr. Marc Caron, PhD. Her work focuses on the intersection between pharmacology, behavior, and neurophysiology and she hopes her research wilI reform treatment for mental illnesses. As a first generation student and an Afrolatina woman, Gwenaëlle is committed to mentoring, amplifying the voices and experiences of marginalized students in STEM, and communicating science to be accessible by all.
GSMI Communications Director
Cathy is currently a fourth-year graduate student in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department at Yale University. She works in the lab of Christian Schlieker on the morphology of the endoplasmic reticulum. She received her Bachelor’s in Chemistry from Amherst College in 2014, where she discovered her interest in the intersection between chemistry and biology. After graduation, she worked as a lab technician at MIT for two years before gaining the confidence to apply to Ph.D. programs. Being a first-generation student who grew up in a Salvadoran family in Miami, FL, Cathy is passionate about mentoring future generations of underrepresented scientists and hopeful that we can work together to address the problem of lack of representation of underrepresented minority scholars in higher education.
Alexis Ceja (she/her/hers)
Alexis is currently a third-year undergraduate student in the Psychology Department at San Francisco State University. She is Mexican-American and was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works as a research assistant in Dr. David Matsumoto’s Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at San Francisco State University and Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes’s Emotion, Health, and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco studying emotion and psychophysiology. She is passionate about reducing health disparities and promoting the inclusion of underrepresented minorities in research. Growing up, Alexis did not see researchers that looked like her. This drives her to continue pursuing her education and future career goals with the hopes of becoming a role model for future minority students interested in pursuing higher education and research in STEM.
David is a research assistant at the CRUK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge in England. He was born in the San Francisco Bay area, but soon moved to Morelia, Mexico where he grew up. At age 16, David returned to the Bay and began his involvement with summer research programs in biomedical sciences spending a few summers in Noelle L'Etoile's lab at UCSF studying C. elegans olfactory adaptation. David moved from California to upstate New York to complete a B.S. In Biochemistry from Siena College. At Siena, he continued his passion for research and studied natural product chemistry, specializing in compound characterization and identification. After university, David moved to the University of Cambridge to work with Adrian Liston at the Babraham Institute, studying regulatory T lymphocytes and continue his education as an immunologist. David is now seeking to continue into a PhD at the University of Cambridge to study adaptive immunity this fall. David has recently joined Científico Latino to help mentor students and help them prepare competitive applications for a career in biomedical sciences!
Aníbal Tornes Blanco (he/him/his)
GSMI Strategic Partnerships Project Lead; STEM Education & Outreach Fellow
Aníbal is a current post-bac at Case Western Reserve University and incoming PhD student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor in PIBS. He was born in La Habana, Cuba and escaped short after to Puerto Rico where he pursued his B.S. in Integrative Biology at the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras. During outreach events he realized that as he answered questions for students and elders in his community, more questions than answers emerged. This led him to look for answers directly with the scientists generating them and he became involved with the NIH – RISE program at his home institution. There he learned about diverse research programs which allowed him to work with biomedical informatics, structural biology and even launch an experiment in a NASA rocket! Such vast experiences gave him purpose to become a mentor and part of the Científico Latino team to streamline the PhD pathway for diverse generations of scientists to come.
Juan Barajas (he/him/his)
GSMI Data Analysis Team Member
Juan is currently a postdoctoral fellow studying defects in blood formation at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Juan was born in La Barca, Mexico, but moved shortly after to a small agriculture and farming community in Eckert, Colorado. Juan is proud to be a first-generation Mexican-American college student and the first scientist in his family. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado and went on to pursue his Ph.D. at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. While pursuing his Ph.D., Juan was awarded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study in 2017. Juan is passionate about increasing access to STEM education to all, but especially in rural agricultural communities. He is excited to be a part of the Científico Latino volunteer team!
Yessica Santana (she/her/hers)
GSMI Resource Development Director; STEM Education & Outreach Fellow
Yessica Santana is a current neuroscience post-baccalaureate student at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) where she is studying retinal biology and neurodevelopment of the starburst amacrine cell. Previously, she did another neuroscience post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pittsburgh where she assisted in investigating retinal-to-cortical circuitry using viral tracers. Yessica received her bachelors in Global Studies at UC Santa Barbara in 2017 where she volunteered in social neuroscience and STEM educational psychology labs. As a first-generation graduate from a Mexican and Guatemalan family, Yessica hopes to play an active role in communicating research resources to all students, especially those from underrepresented minority populations in order to help them navigate higher education and promote diversity in science. Yessica will continue her studies at the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU in Fall 2020.
Cristina is currently a sophomore majoring in Mathematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she is involved in undergraduate research in computational genomics and in mathematical biology. She is passionate about pushing boundaries between disciplines to further scientific research, and hopes to promote diversity in science by sharing resources for Latin American students and underrepresented minorities, especially at the undergraduate level.
Jazmin Emilia Aguilar-Romero
Jazmin is currently a second-year PhD student in chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducting research on acid-degradable, acid-amplifying polymers for biological applications. She is Chicana/Mexican-American, was born and raised in Los Angeles, and moved away from the warm West Coast to do her B.A. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. While at Cornell, Jazmin became involved in student organizations aiming to build a support network for underrepresented minorities in STEM where she discovered a passion for mentoring and teaching other students. She has continued building on this through mentoring undergraduate students in research, organizing workshops in her SACNAS chapter, and joining the Científico Latino team.
GSMI Digital Education & Content Team Member;
STEM Education & Outreach Fellow
Kirill is a neurobiology graduate student working to develop new ways of interfacing with the brain at Duke University. He received his double BA in Neurobiology and in Computer Science from UC Berkeley. Himself being a first generation immigrant, Kirill seeks to help those struggling to navigate in American academic system, holding a firm belief that STEM education and careers should be accessible to everyone equally, despite their origins, immigration status, or financial situation.
Linda R. Lara-Jacobo
GSMI Minority Interests & Digital Education Team Member
Linda is a doctoral candidate in toxicology from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec City, Canada. She was previously a professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) in charge of the toxicology area and field experience at locations in the Lacandon Rain Forest, Cloud Forests, Boreal Forests, among others. She is also involved with community work in indigenous communities. Linda is passionate about mentoring and promoting diversity in STEM.
GSMI Minority Interests Team Member
Abhishek is an incoming PhD student in the Computer Science department at the University of Rochester in Fall 2020. Born and raised in an Indian household, Abhishek is a first-generation college student. As an international first-generation student, Abhishek brings to Científico Latino the the desire to help future graduate students navigate hurdles in the application process to Computer Science and Engineering graduate programs. Abhishek believes that the ability to understand difficult situations and find solutions goes a long way in developing as a person. Having gone through graduate school applications twice, Abhishek is interested in understanding and dissecting problems and challenges that students face in different communities and help find better solutions and approaches to help them achieve their goals. With the diverse nature of Cientifico Latino, Abhishek is confident that the team will be able make a difference in a wide range of communities!
GSMI Resources Team Member; STEM Education & Outreach Team Member
Dennisha King is an incoming neuroscience graduate student in the NGP at the University of Rochester. She was previously, a neuroscience post-baccalaureate scholar at Oregon Health & Science University. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Dennisha is proud to be a first-generation West Indian American college and graduate student. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Public Health from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA. While at Agnes Scott, Dennisha became involved in multiple student organizations focusing on mentorship and fostering support networks for underrepresented minority student interested in pursuing STEM careers. She hopes to continue to work to increase visibility for URMs in STEM through STEM community outreach initiatives as well as mentorship opportunities as a part of the Cientifico Latino team.
Jyoti Sharma (she/her/hers)
GSMI Communications Team Member
Jyoti is an incoming masters student in biology at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. She began her career as a zoology undergraduate and received research training at Institut de Génétique Moléculaire de Montpellier - CNRS. While studying in the capital of India and spending summer vacation in her native village, she recognized the deficiencies and barriers faced by the students in rural schools. As a first-generation student, Jyoti is deeply inspired to work on improving the graduate application guidance for different URM communities after participating in Científico Latino's GSMI program in 2019. Through joining the Cientifico Latino team, she brings knowledge of the the nuances of European higher education system.
Paola Figueroa-Delgado (she/her/hers)
GSMI Resources Team Member
Paola is a PhD student in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University, where she currently studies the neuronal cytoskeleton. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she received her Bachelors of Science at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. During her time as an undergraduate student, she was a NIH BP-ENDURE Fellow and founded the National Neuroscience Student Association. She is a passionate and driven advocate for underrepresented and marginalized individuals in STEM and has continuously mentored and supported them throughout her career. She began mentoring pre-college URM students in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy program, while as an undergraduate, as a Universities Space Research Association Fellow. Furthermore, she was the Education and Outreach Chair for the International Space Development Conference from 2014 to 2016 and was the organizer of TEDxUPR, among other conferences. She is passionate about making STEM accessible and creating an environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive to all individuals, specifically those who are historically marginalized. At Yale, she serves as the Yale Biology and Biomedical Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Collective Outreach Branch Leader, Cell Biology Department Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee PhD Student Representative, Women in Science at Yale Board Member, among others.
Leonor Garcia Bayona
GSMI Strategic Relations Team Member
Leonor is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Professor Laurie Comstock at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, working to understand the genomics and genetics of human gut bacteria from the order Bacteroidales. She grew up in Bogota, Colombia and completed her Chemical Engineering and Microbiology undergraduate studies at the University of the Andes in Colombia. Her doctoral work was performed under the supervision of Professor Michael Laub at MIT, where she acquired a strong background in bacterial genetics, physiology, genomics and interbacterial antagonism. Leonor has witnessed firsthand the social inequity and lack of opportunities that affect a large portion of the population in her home country and some demographics in the USA. She therefore feels deeply committed to facilitating the access to STEM education and scientific development in these populations, as a key factor for deeply needed social progress, and for the intrinsic value that people from these demographics bring to the science enterprise.
GSMI Communications Team Member
Melissa is currently a second-year PhD student in the joint Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology Biomedical Engineering program. Her research focuses on integrating cortical brain organoids and 3D bioprinting to model neurodevelopment. Melissa was recently awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support her research. She is Colombian-American, and was born and raised in Queens, NY. Melissa completed her BSE in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). While at Michigan, Melissa was very involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, educational outreach, and mentorship for underrepresented and marginalized students. She hopes to continue being involved in these efforts and making STEM inclusive and accessible to all.
Sergio Rodriguez Labra (he/him/his)
Graduate Student Engagement & Community (GSEC) Team Member
Sergio is a neuroscience and chemical biology graduate student at the Scripps Research Institute working on novel Alzheimer's disease models and treatments. Prior to beginning his Ph.D. in 2018, he earned a B.S.E. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and a Master of Biotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania. As a proud naturalized immigrant born and raised in Mexico, Sergio loves being involved in the community, leading numerous pre-professional organizations and Latinx mentorship programs at Penn and co-founding his current institution's Scientific Diversity Association. Sergio is passionate about synergizing mentorship, community outreach, and advocacy to support and empower present and future generations of underrepresented minorities in STEM.
Kimberly Hernandez Palacios (she/her/hers)
Graduate Student Engagement & Community (GSEC) Team Member
Kimberly is a PhD student in the Neurobiology and Behavior program at Columbia University where she studies neural circuits underlying social behaviors. She is Mexican-American and was born and raised in southern California. She attended CSU Long Beach and got her start in research as a MARC scholar. After undergrad, she moved to Ann Arbor, MI where she participated in the NIH PREP program for a year before moving to NYC for graduate school. At the start of her PhD, Kimberly was awarded the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in 2019. Since her start in research, she has been passionate about helping URM succeed in STEM and has been involved in multiple outreach and diversity initiatives. She plans to continue these efforts with the goal of making diverse and inclusive environments in STEM.
Maria Pia Rodriguez Salazar (she/her/hers)
Graduate Student Engagement & Community (GSEC) Team Member
Pia is a Cell Biology PhD candidate at Duke University studying glial mitochondrial dynamics in brain development in the laboratory of Dr. Cagla Eroglu. Born in Bolivia to Peruvian parents, Pia grew up undocumented in the US learned the critical importance of mentorship for people like her to access and succeed in STEM. She earned a full scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill despite her undocumented status, which allowed her to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biology. During her time at UNC, Pia became a leader in undocumented student advocacy and policy reform, an issue she is still passionate about today. After undergrad, Pia joined the Regenerative Medicine Lab at United Therapeutics in NC, where she was one of the lead researchers to develop a stem cell-based therapy for chronic lung disease currently in clinical trials. At Duke, Pia is a 2020 PD Soros Fellow, a BioCoRE Scholar, and Co-Chair of her department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Through these efforts and beyond, Pia remains committed to diversifying academic spaces while empowering and mentoring marginalized STEM trainees.