Three graduate students, Keila Miles and Jennifer Patritti both in the Neuroscience Graduate Program in the College of Medicine, along with Mirelis Santos-Cancel of the Department of Chemistry, have been named fellows with the Yale Ciencia Academy for Career Development.
The academy has accepted 40 young researchers from across the United States to provide opportunities for professional mentorship, networking and other skills designed to make a contribution to their communities through science outreach. Yale Ciencia Academy’s focus is to increase the number of Puerto Rican and Hispanic scientists serving communities.
The academy is sponsored by the non-profit organization Ciencia Puerto Rico in collaboration with Yale University. Miles, Patritti and Santos-Cancel attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Austin, Texas, February 15-19, as part of the academy’s networking program. That meeting was an opportunity to meet influential figures in science, government and politics, like former Vice-President, Joseph Biden, who was a featured speaker at the AAAS.
The graduate students will remain engaged during a year-long program through Yale Ciencia Academy, mostly virtual via webinar, to stay connected with leaders in the biological, biomedical, health and behavioral sciences.
"I applied for Yale Ciencia Academy in hopes the workshops and opportunities that are offered can help me figure out what I want to do with my PhD after my studies are complete,” says Patritti, who is in her second-year training as a PhD student and working in the laboratory of Nancy Ratner, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UC and a Cincinnati Children’s researcher.
"It could be academia, industry or science policy. I am hoping to network with people who can help me figure out the next step,” says Patritti.
As a member of Ratner’s team of researchers, Patritti is studying neurofibromatosis type 1, a common inherited disorder in which children are predisposed to cancer of the nervous system and the growth of tumors along nerves in the skin, brain and other parts of the body. As part of her doctoral research, Patritti is looking at cell signaling mechanisms that cause tumor formation.
Miles, in her fifth-year training as a PhD student, says networking through Yale Ciencia Academy is essential as she nears the end of her research studies at UC. "Networking is important at every stage of the game, but now it’s more tangible because these professionals could help guide me into the career I want,” says Miles, who is pursuing a career in science policy and advocacy.
She is a team member in the laboratory of Matthew Skelton, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UC and a Cincinnati Children’s researcher. Miles is studying creatine transporter deficiency (CTD), a metabolic disorder that adversely affect cognitive function in two percent of males with intellectually disability. Her dissertation research centers on the use of ketogenic diet as possible treatment for CTD.
Santos-Cancel, a fourth-year doctoral candidate, works closely with Ryan White, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and Eminent Scholar in UC College of Arts and Sciences. Her research is interdisciplinary and is focused on the development of cutting-edge electrochemical probes for the detection and quantification of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and elucidation of this molecule’s role in brain process with enhanced spatiotemporal resolution and high specificity.
"My experience meeting the Yale Ciencia Academy fellows in Austin was fulfilling and empowering,” says Santos-Cancel. "I really feel I am part of a movement to advance inclusiveness in the STEM field through outreach and science policy.”
Miles, who identifies as Afro-Latino, says increasing the number of researchers from minority communities, increases the pool of scientific talent. "Diversity is necessary for forward movement. When approaching scientific issues it is helpful to have different perspectives, increasing our ability to problem solve.”
Iain Cartwright, PhD, associate dean and director of the Office of Graduate Education in the College of Medicine, says the three fellows offer excellent representation for the university and will make a wonderful contribution to the Yale Ciencia Academy for Career Development.
"We couldn’t be more pleased that our students in the College of Medicine and across UC have been chosen to participate in this highly selective and prestigious NIH-supported program,” says Cartwright. "It confirms our belief that our graduate students and our graduate training programs at the university are second to none on the national scene. The opportunities afforded to them in this science academy and the experience gained can only broaden the influence and participation of scientists from diverse backgrounds in the biomedical research enterprise for the future.”