Dr. Dorothy J. Gish Women in Leadership Award

Award recipients

Feature Recipient Story:

Fall 2018 Recipient, Rachel Steckbeck



On October 10, 2018, I was able to attend the SACNAS True Diversity in STEM conference to present a poster of my research and build my leadership skills. SACNAS, which stands for Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, is a yearly conference that focuses on promoting diversity in STEM fields and gives space for underrepresented minorities to present their research and talk about their experiences. This year, the conference was headquartered in San Antonio, Texas.

                This was the first scientific conference I had ever attended, so I did not know what to expect. I found it to be an invigorating environment, where I was surrounded by fellow students and scientists. During the conference, I attended several career-building sessions. One session I attended was called “Professional Networking.” Networking is a crucial skill for any leader to develop. It allows two professionals to connect and share information that can be beneficial for both people. During this session, we learned how to introduce ourselves to other scientists and how to follow up on that connection. I utilized these skills extensively when I attended at the Graduate School and Career Expo, where I conversed with several different graduate school recruiters and professors about their summer undergraduate research programs and M.D./Ph.D. programs. Another session I attended discussed how to excel at a graduate school interview. We went over several common questions we could be asked while at an interview, and how to answer these in a way that will let the interviewers know that we have the skills necessary to succeed.

At SACNAS, I was accepted to present a poster of my summer research with Dr. Silveyra, my lab mentor. The conference had two student poster sessions. During the sessions, students stand by their poster and other students, professionals, and mentors come around, listening to others’ research. Mentor judges also walked around, judging each student’s presentation and giving feedback to the student. My mentor judges were extremely helpful in honing my presentation skills, a crucial part of a leader’s skill set.

                In addition to these experiences, I also heard several famous scientists speak. After a luncheon on Thursday afternoon, I listened to Dr. Ellen Ochoa speak. Dr. Ochoa was the Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center from 2013 to 2018. I was also able to hear presentations from Ed Yong, a science writer for the Atlantic, and Dr. Mica Estrada, a professor of social sciences at University of California San Francisco. These people were inspiring to me as an example of what I can aim for in my future career.

                Altogether, this was an extremely important trip for me in developing my leadership skills and connecting with other scientists. I am so thankful to the Dr. Dorothy J. Gish Women in Leadership Award for allowing me to attend this conference!