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Graduate students receive SACNAS travel scholarships, present at STEM diversity conference

Posted: November 9, 2018

Students and faculty from the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology attended The National Diversity in STEM Conference on October 11, 2018, hosted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The three-day conference was held in San Antonio this year and is scheduled to take place in Honolulu next year.
Graduate students Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu (left) and Terry Torres Cruz were awarded SACNAS travel scholarships to present at the 2018 STEM diversity conference in San Antonio. IMAGE: PHOTO PROVIDED BY TERRY TORRES CRUZ

Graduate students Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu (left) and Terry Torres Cruz were awarded SACNAS travel scholarships to present at the 2018 STEM diversity conference in San Antonio. IMAGE: PHOTO PROVIDED BY TERRY TORRES CRUZ

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Students and faculty from the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology attended The National Diversity in STEM Conference on October 11, 2018, hosted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The three-day conference was held in San Antonio this year and is scheduled to take place in Honolulu next year.

Representing the department were graduate students Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu and Terry Torres Cruz, Assistant Professor Dr. Kevin Hockett and Department Head Dr. Carolee Bull. SACNAS awarded travel scholarships to both, Ehau-Taumaunu and Torres Cruz to support their attendance and presentations.

In addition to poster presentations, Ehau-Taumaunu and Hockett organized a standing-only session titled “The Cultures of Science: The Intersection Between Western and Indigenous Knowledge.” In addition to being an organizer, Ehau-Taumaunu was one of four speakers for the session and presented her talk entitled, “Cohesion and Conflict Among Communities.” During her talk she covered her journey as an Indigenous scientist, her experience working in two worlds and how others can benefit by forming relationships between Indigenous and Western knowledge holders. Ehau-Taumaunu also presented a poster entitled “When is Bacteriocin Production Beneficial for the Phytopathogen Pseudomonas Syringae?” which focused primarily on her current research investigating bacterial warfare in common bean plants.

For the Cultures of Science session, there was standing room only. “The reception from the audience was very positive, both from the questions asked, as well as the numerous inquiries regarding future session on this topic,” Hockett said.

Both students received travel awards from SACNAS which covered travel costs and accommodations during the conference. “SACNAS 2018 was the first time I have been at a conference that made me feel like I belonged from the get-go,” Ehau-Taumunu said. “I built many relationships with people from diverse backgrounds that will no doubt benefit my development, my research and my story.”

Torres Cruz presented her poster titled “From Fungus to Flower: The Ecological Role of Pseudoflower Formation by a New Fusarium Species from Guyana and Its Potential Dispersal by Insects.” She commented, “I loved having the opportunity to attend different professional development sessions and get informed on topics like ‘Implicit Bias and Microaggressions: How our Brains Take Shortcuts’ and ‘Mental Health and Wellness in Graduate and Postdoctoral Trainee Populations: An Open and Necessary Discussion.’”

The Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology is committed to the diversity goals set by university leadership and sending students and faculty to meetings like SACNAS is one way the department is attempting to meet those goals. “By attending with students, faculty hear from other students and successful faculty of diverse backgrounds, including Hispanic and Native American, about the hidden obstacles faced by these students,” said Carolee Bull, head of the department. “The students help their faculty to navigate a completely new cultural environment and thus, have the opportunity to mentor their mentors.”