I am a first-generation Chicano conducting my post-doctoral research at FHCRC, where I study the evolution of HIV and related lentiviruses. While I have been in research for over 10 years now, and am currently applying to academic faculty positions, science was not always in the sights. In fact, I had little clue what career I wanted to pursue when I began college as a Molecular Biology major. It was not until I began working in a research lab that I feel in love with science and the scientific process, at which point I knew it was my future. However that opportunity may never have come if it weren’t for an NIH-sponsored fellowship for undergraduate minorities in science. That fellowship afforded me the financial support and the time to dedicate myself to research, which I took full advantage of. Since then, I have been the recipient of multiple fellowships aimed at increasing diversity in the sciences. This has not only allowed me to contribute my unique viewpoint to the greater scientific community, but has also propelled me to help recruit and mentor minorities interested in careers in science.
Remaining in academia is of paramount importance for me. The lack of minorities at the highest levels of academic research represents a major barrier to the progress of basic science research, as tackling questions like HIV requires unique ideas and perspectives from distinct viewpoints, and distinct scientific and cultural/social backgrounds. As one of the most important means of recruiting minorities into basic science research is to have minorities at all levels functioning as role models, I have committed to achieving my goal of running a lab and teaching at a primary research institute. I am confident that through the experiences I have had as an under-represented minority in science I will be able to help others to foster their own drive and careers, which for me has been the direct result of fellowships and initiatives to help increase diversity in science.