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SDB at 2013 SACNAS

By Marsha E. Lucas

Amidst a partial shutdown of the United States federal government, The 2013 National Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) was held in San Antonio, Texas, October 3-6, 2013. The Society for Developmental Biology participated by sponsoring a session entitled, “The Developing Embryo: Perspectives From Different Animal Models” and providing developmental biologists for “Conversations with Scientists,” an open forum for students to dialogue with scientists of various disciplines.

On the opening day of the meeting, SDB President, Martin Chalfie from Columbia University, stepped in to give the Welcome Ceremony Keynote Address. He filled in for Clifton Poodry, director of the Division of Training, Workforce, and Diversity at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, who was unable to attend due to the government shutdown. In fact, about 30 speakers from federal agencies were either replaced or had their sessions canceled and their exhibits unmanned.

Martin Chalfie received a Native American blanket from members of the SACNAS American Indian Affairs Committee, Maria Pontes Ferreira (left) and David Burgess (right). Credit: SACNAS

In his keynote address entitled, “GFP: Lighting Up Life,” Chalfie spoke about his unconventional journey to a career in science and ultimately the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien for the discovery and development of green fluorescent protein (GFP). He emphasized that there are many paths to science as he and his co-recipients have demonstrated.

That evening, Chalfie along with developmental biologists, Carmen Domingo (San Francisco State University), Yolanda Cruz (Oberlin College), Ricardo M. Zayas (San Diego State University) and David Weisblat (University of California, Berkeley) engaged students in round-table discussions about careers in developmental biology during the “Conversations with Scientists” session.  Later in the meeting they would also judge student posters.

The SDB-sponsored scientific session chaired by Carmen Domingo was held the next morning and showcased a small survey of developmental biology research. Kristy Red-Horse (Stanford University) presented “Patterning coronary arteries during heart morphogenesis.” Ricardo Zayas presented, “Stem cells and regeneration of the central nervous system in planarians.” Finally, Martin Chalfie, presented his work on the molecular basis of mechanosensation in C. elegans.

Best undergraduate student poster winner and Choose Development! SDB Fellow, Krissie Tellez (left), with her academic mentor, Carmen Domingo.

Throughout the meeting, whether at poster sessions or meals, SDB members continued to engage students and postdocs in dialogue about their research and career opportunities. SDB Executive Officer, Ida Chow, provided information about developmental biology and related fields at the SDB booth, as well as promoted SDB's Choose Development! program for openings in 2014.

Choose Development! SDB Fellow, Krissie Tellez, from Carmen Domingo's lab at SFSU was awarded the best undergraduate student poster in the category of cell and molecular biology. SDB graduate student member Gloria Slattum (Jody Rosenblatt's lab, University of Utah), who attended the Conference on a FASEB-MARC travel award, won the best graduate student oral presentation in the same category.  Congratulations to both!