Ciencia con Nuestra Familia: a symposium mid-pandemic

— Maribel Anguiano

Since starting college, I’ve realized there are various versions of myself. I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a fanatic of 2000’s RnB and Hip Hop, an avid camper, and a scientist.

The lack of representation in the sciences has made me feel like I need to adjust certain parts of myself to “fit in.” I compartmentalized my identities to help give myself a sense of belonging in whatever setting I was in. These adjustments, some consciously and others subconsciously, drained me over the years.

Meeting my good friend Celena made my journey to graduate school easier. It’s amazing how powerful and seen you feel when you can share your experience with someone who gets you. We continuously remind each other of the importance of our voices and presence in the STEM field.

Maribel and Celena and Fallen Leaf Lake
Celena and me at the 2019 MCB T32 Training Program retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake in the Sierras.

Another immense presence that has helped: great mentors. At UC Davis, I have been surrounded by remarkable and diverse mentors who genuinely want to see me succeed. Their company and ability to create a welcoming lab environment continue to project me on my path to graduate school.

Okay, so I have a welcoming lab environment, great friends and mentors, but something was still missing. My family.

Being a first-generation college student, I’ve struggled with how to bring my parents into this world. So, during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic I decided to organize a symposium targeted towards creating a bridge between Spanish-speaking parents and their children in graduate school.

The symposium I called Ciencia con Nuestra Familia (Science with our Family) had two main goals:

  1. to include our parents in our success and
  2. to provide an opportunity for graduate students to practice communicating their science to the general public.

I gathered four graduate students in the biological sciences at UC Davis, and they all presented their graduate work to their families in Spanish via Zoom.

Ciencia con Nuestra Familia presenters
Presenters at Ciencia con Nuestra Familia

I was so excited to introduce this world to our parents.

For most of our presenters, this was the first time they were presenting their graduate work to their parents. I am endlessly amazed by my peers who so effortlessly communicate their science in TWO languages.

This event reminded me that students of color who come from under-resourced communities are not incapable of succeeding in the sciences. I have seen us be resilient, quick thinkers, resourceful, and critical thinkers, in sometimes more than one maybe even two languages. An event like this has the potential to reach a new generation of scientists from an early age. It can help parents of first-generation college students feel welcomed in the sciences.

For too long the sciences has been sold to the public as a field meant only for some. Science is for EVERYONE. We must continue to put in the work until we all believe it and we can all achieve it.

Therefore, I created this event with the idea that it would grow and improve every year. This year, I kept the event private for two reasons:

  • it was the first time most of the presenters were going to present in Spanish and
  • this was my first time organizing an event like this and I wanted to be able to keep it close and personal so I could learn from it.
@LatinaNeuroNerd's tweet
And we’re proud of you, Maribel…
tweet response
…as is the rest of your community.

Seeing the online reaction to this event when I posted it on twitter made me believe that this can continue to grow outside of Davis. In the future, I want to include various non-English languages and make this event more accessible to a bigger audience by utilizing Twitter and Facebook Live. I want to be able to provide more support to the presenting graduate students during their preparation for this event. Finally, I want to make this more interactive. I want our families to feel welcomed to asking questions and I want them to walk out (or log out) having learned something from every presentation and not just their child’s.

I believe this event will continue to improve and together, I think we can continue to make science accessible for everyone.

If you have questions on how you can get involved with Ciencia con Nuestra Familia or would like to organize this event at your school you can reach me at mangui@ucdavsi.edu or follow me on twitter @LatinaNeuroNerd.