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Two Yale Students Begin Their Professional Development as Yale Ciencia Academy Fellows

February 07, 2020

Forty young science leaders will kick off their year as fellows of the Yale Ciencia Academy (YCA) for Career Development at an in-person meeting held to coincide with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle, (February 13-17, 2020). Yale University is represented through the participation of Yanixa Quiñones Avilés, second-year PhD student in the laboratory of Dr. Mandar Muzumdar in Cancer Biology and Chair of the Outreach Committee of the Yale SACNAS chapter, and Mytien Nguyen, fourth-year MD/PhD student in the lab of Noah Palm and co-founder of the Yale First-Gen and/or Low Income affinity organization.

The YCA provides doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds in the life and health sciences with opportunities for mentoring, networking, skills development, and contributing to their communities through science outreach. The program is led by the Yale Ciencia Initiative, a collaboration between Yale and the non-profit organization Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR) to support and study innovative interventions to broaden participation in the sciences. The Yale Ciencia Initiative is housed within the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity of the Yale School of Medicine. Fellows must apply to be selected to participate in the year-long, mostly virtual program which leverages the CienciaPR community—one of the largest networks of Hispanic/Latinx scientists in the world—as a source of role models and outreach opportunities.

During the in-person meeting, fellows participate in science communication, networking, and science outreach workshops and use improv exercises to build trust and a sense of community. Fellows also participate in the AAAS Meeting, which offers additional professional development and career exploration opportunities. The rest of the year, fellows gather for online conversations with role models and mentors who share advice on academic and professional milestones and expose trainees to a range of careers, as well as for peer-led and facilitator-guided discussions on overcoming common concerns and challenges related to graduate school and research careers. A series of online workshops helps them develop actionable career plans, establish effective mentoring relationship (as mentees and mentors), and incorporate inclusive science teaching practices. As part of the modeling of proactive career advancement practices, fellows receive individual feedback on their career plans from program staff twice a year.

One of the most innovative aspects of the program is that YCA fellows are guided to design and implement a science outreach project that helps them put into practice transferable skills (e.g. science communication, leadership, etc.) and allows them to connect with a community they care about.

“The Yale Ciencia Academy complements traditional graduate training with access to a diverse network of peers, role models and advisors”, said Dr. Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, Principal Investigator and Director of the YCA. “The goal is to help students gain clarity in their academic and professional goals and become the scientists they want to be. We are excited about the talent and promise among this new class of YCA fellows.”

Started in 2016 and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the YCA has thus far trained four cohorts for a total of 154 young scientists from more than 70 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico. The program has been shown to help students define the career they want to pursue, improve their professional development and mentoring practices, and increase their confidence in their ability to navigate graduate school and career transitions successfully. The peer community of support and science outreach project are particularly highly-rated elements among past YCA participants with more than 135 outreach projects completed over the past four years, reaching more than 25,000 people.

The 2020 class is composed of 40 students from 29 institutions nationwide. You can meet the full class of 2020 YCA Fellows here.

About the Yale Ciencia Initiative

A part of Yale School of Medicine’s Office of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the Yale Ciencia Initiative collaborates with Yale STEM-H pipeline and advanced degree programs to increase recruitment of Latinx scholars and to establish meaningful partnerships with Hispanic Serving Institutions. The Initiative also runs the Yale Ciencia Academy, a nation-wide program to build resiliency and promote career success for doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds.

About Ciencia Puerto Rico

CienciaPR is a nonprofit organization that connects more than 12,000 Puerto Rican and Hispanic scientists, students, and educators worldwide through an innovative online platform. By leveraging its community’s collective knowledge, the organization has created thousands of resources to improve science education and help forge the next generation of Hispanic/Latinx STEM leaders.

Additional Resources

- Learn more about the Yale Ciencia Academy

- Check out the Yale Ciencia Academy Blog

- Learn more about the Yale Ciencia Initiative

- Learn more about Ciencia Puerto Rico

CienciaPR on Social Media




Follow the Yale Ciencia Academy 2020 on social media using: #yaleciencia2020

Contact: Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, PhD

Director, Yale Ciencia Initiative

Principal Investigators, Yale Ciencia Academy

(616) 643-7666

Submitted by Robert Forman on February 07, 2020