Two undergraduate students at The University of New Mexico were among 117 graduate and undergraduate students from across the nation recognized for their research and presentation skills at SACNAS (Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) National Diversity in Stem Conference held recently.

Elena Delgado was one of two selected in the Computer and Information Sciences award. Her poster addressed a new way of identifying the molecular structure that underlies a molecule imaged by Cryo-electron microscopy. Specifically, Delgado explored the computational cost of the algorithm and modifications to speed up the fitting process.

Esteban Abeyta was one of five selected in the Biochemistry category. His work was titled “The Role of the Vacuolar Ion Transport Genes VCX1 and VNX1 in C. Albicans Filamentation, Secretion, and Virulence."

“Both Elena and Esteban have worked hard in our program,” said Maggie Werner-Washburne, UNM Regents' Professor Emerita, Biology and principal investigator for UNM’s IMSD program. “We combine support for a research experience as well as a psychosocial mentoring program aimed at developing emotional intelligence, resilience and leadership. Everyone in the program is a part of our larger team and family and we couldn't be prouder of Esteban and Elena or more grateful to their brilliant research mentors, Sam Lee and Lydia Tapia.”

SACNAS is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—to attain advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in science. This year, the national conference gathered about 4,000 students and professionals. Taking place over three days, the conference showcased both undergraduate and graduate student presentations, offered scientific symposia, keynote addresses, professional development sessions and a grand exhibit hall in which students interacted with over 300 exhibitors representing colleges and universities across the nation.

In addition to these activities, the conference was also an opportunity for students to present their research in a professional setting with more than 1,000 posters and oral presentations delivered at the conference.

“One of the goals of the SACNAS conference is to provide a training ground for students and professionals that provides support and guidance throughout STEM educational and career paths,” said SACNAS President Dr. Lino Gonzalez. “Through the presentation awards we proudly recognize and lift up the hard work and effort of students in their respective fields. This year, we have the fortune of honoring a brilliant cohort of nearly 120 students who are paving the way for promising careers in STEM.”

This year’s presentation awards were made possible thanks to the generosity and sponsorship of the American Astronomical Society, American Chemical Society, American Physiological Society, American Society for Biochemistry, Molecular Biology Biophysical Society, Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), Institute for Computational Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Maryland Sea Grant, Sandia National Laboratories, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the USDA – Agricultural Research Service.