Sacnas Creates Bridges between Science and Young People

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ConcienciaNews) - Giving free reign to young people’s imagination is what Sacnas (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) has been doing for 35 years, promoting higher education in matters of science and technology among Latinos.

That is the case with Daniel Santillana, who is now studying for his PhD in Marine Microbiology in Germany. Since 1995, he has participated in the organization events as a scholar and professor, promoting the benefits and options that this non-profit organization offers, seeking more young people to receive a higher education in the sciences.

“I have been involved in academia for many years because of Sacnas. The spirit of the organization, my fellow colleagues and students, the faculty and mentors remind me that I am helping to enhance the name of the Latino and Native American community by reaching the highest level possible: my PhD in sciences,” said Santillana from Germany.

Each year, Sacnas finances the complete participation of at least 700 students in the annual conference organized by Sacnas so that these young people learn about and become familiar with more than 300 universities, governmental agencies and laboratories; and to inspire them and provide them with enough information to continue their master’s and PhD studies in the sciences.

One of the most important activities of the organization is the annual conference, which was held last month in Salt Lake City, attended by 1,400 undergraduates, 400 students pursuing their Master’s and 100 PhD and post-PhD students, which adds up to a total of 2,600 participants.

“We want students to imagine themselves as top scientists and we want them to reach this goal,” said Judit Camacho, the executive director of Sacnas.

The organization also offers scholarships for students who want to continue their studies in genome research.

“I think one of the most important things about Sacnas is that we provide significant, heart-felt support from scientists to the students. There truly is a great deal of support, and the desire to be mentors is very strong,” Camacho said.

According to Judit, she has witnessed not only an increase in the Hispanic population throughout the country, but also an increase in young people’s interest in science.

“I have seen that there are now more role models among scientists, models to be followed by the younger generation, and, most importantly, they are ready to help us,” Camacho said.

In 1994, when Camacho was a math student, there were about 500 students taking part in the organization. Nowadays, they are about 2,600 people. “The number has increased five times over. That is a great achievement,” she said.

However, these achievements were also attained through the help of technology and the Internet, which has allowed us to reach more people interested in science. “Undoubtedly, although the Internet can help, personal contact and the interest of scientists in helping students has increased a lot,” Camacho said.

According to scientists, schools should continue their sciences and math courses, but they have to make them more enjoyable, creating opportunities to think, moments for creativity, and avoid a monotonous atmosphere.

Recommendations for a Science Student

The first thing you have to do is to dream. Yes, dream that you want to be a scientist and believe you can do it. Then you need to make a plan it and you can achieve it, according to Camacho. She recommends reading a lot. Young people may be inspired by examples and people and work to achieve dreams.

“We also need to make a plan and think: if I want to be a scientist, what do I have to do in the next few years to reach my goals,” said Camacho, who also recommended that the student look for organizations, places and people to help him achieve their objectives.

“I recommend Sacnas 100% to other students who want to become make contacts with Latinos working in science or related fields,” said Santillana. “Some of the fields of science can separate and isolate us, but maintaining relationships with students in the country and from abroad is comforting and encouraging,” Santillana said.

For further information on Sacnas, visit the web page: www.sacnas.org