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ABRCMS 2006 Conference Summary

8:28 a.m., Nov. 22, 2006--Two of five students who participated in the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), placed first in their poster session category on Saturday, November 11, 2006 in Anaheim, California.

Awards were presented to two HHMI NUCLEUS Scholars Chati Lum Zony, sophomore biochemistry major and Charles Drummer IV, a junior biological science major. More than 1,400 students attended the conference, and more than 1100 biomedical research posters were presented.

ABRCMS provides minority students an opportunity to present their work in a scientific forum and network with undergraduate/graduate students and college/university faculty nationwide. The conference was keynoted by Bonnie St. John, M. Litt., an Olympic Silver Medalist in downhill skiing, and director of Special Programs at The Leaders Edge. Also, she is the author of three practical how-to books and was selected by NBC Nightly News as “one of the five most inspiring women in America.” Maenette Benham, Ed.D. scholar, mentor and professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University, and program director for the K-12 Educational Leadership Program, also addressed the attendees.

NUCLEUS students attending and presenting at the conference included Shaila G. Parker, a senior biochemistry major and medical humanity minor and a McNair Scholar; Tyanna Hadley, sophomore biochemistry and legal studies major; and Lauretta Ovadje, an HHMI research scholar and senior biology and environmental science major at Lincoln University also presented biomedical research posters.

Dr. Zakiya Wilson, out-going coordinator of NUCLEUS, Ms. Jacqueline Aldridge, in-coming coordinator of NUCLEUS and former coordinator of Delaware Tech-UD NIH Bridges Program, Dr. Carlton Cooper, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Anissa Brown, UD research assistant and biological sciences doctoral candidate accompanied the students to Anaheim. Cooper served as a judge and Brown presented a poster at the conference.

The conference was filled with academic, professional and personal workshops in which students and faculty had the opportunity to get re-energized and inspired about being a scientist. Workshops entitled: "Issues and Challenges in Reducing Health Disparities Among Minorities in the US" presented by Dr. Aida Luz Maisonet Giachello, Associate Professor in the department of sociology at the University of Illinois and “Bioethics and the Future of Stem Cell Research” presented by Dr. Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, were two of many topics discussed in such a way that created an environment for ideas and opinions to be shared among students and faculty.

The primary goal of the conference was to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced degrees in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and provide faculty mentors, program directors and advisors with resources for facilitating students' success. Within the context of this goal, attendees had the opportunity to engage in plenary professional development sessions that were encouraging and inspiring to both students and faculty. One session entitled “Career Pathways and Opportunities” enabled students to learn about the career opportunities in academe, industry, public health patent law, foundation, entrepreneurship, nonprofit research organization and government. In this session there were speakers who served on a panel that represented each career field, and shared their personal “career pathway” experiences.

In addition to poster and oral presentations, students were provided numerous opportunities for networking and mentoring. Sessions such as Small Group Discussion (Birds of a Feather Sessions), Focus Group Meetings and Networking Meals were all created for students to interact with one another and discuss the various academic challenges that most minority students face as science majors. A “Mentoring Corner” was also set-up for participants to engage in one-on-one discussions with leaders in all scientific disciplines and receive advice on identifying careers, goal setting and becoming successful.

Overall, the conference was fulfilling, motivating and rewarding. In talking with NUCLEUS students who attended the conference along with other students and faculty from various colleges/universities, participants now understand the importance of earning advance degrees in science, the art of networking and how making connections with other people will help build bridges toward success. In the words of keynote speaker, Bonnie St. John who in her presentation entitled “Choosing to be Extraordinary”, the ultimate lesson that was given at the conference was “Dig your well before you get thirsty”. In other words, persevere, be encouraged and make the connections.

Submitted by:
Jacqueline Aldridge

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