Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)


Awardees to be honored in Washington, DC at 2015 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference


SACNAS is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 SACNAS Distinguished Awards. This year’s four awardees have exemplified the SACNAS mission by showing unparalleled dedication to excellence in science, mentoring, and teaching. These outstanding individuals were nominated by those who have been touched by their work and selected by a committee of their peers. Awards will be presented with special tributes throughout the 2015 SACNAS National Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, October 29-31 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Since the SACNAS Distinguished Awards program was initiated in 1997, the Society has honored over 80 scientists, educators, and program directors for their commitment to and personification of the spirit of the SACNAS mission: to assist Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists, from college students to professionals, to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in science.

We are honored to present our 2015 recipients:

2015 SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award

Carlos Rios-Velazquez

Associate Professor of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Originally from La Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Ríos-Velazquez received his BS in Industrial Microbiology, a teacher’s license in science for secondary school, and a Master’s in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPR-M). He completed a PhD in Bacteriology from UW-Madison and his postdoctoral studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Ríos-Velazquez is a professor and researcher in the Biology Department at UPR-M’s Microbial Biotechnology and Bioprospecting laboratory. He’s mentored graduate and undergraduate students in programs such as BRIDGE, RISE, STEP UP, PRLSAM, and MARC/SLOAN, among others. Dr. Ríos-Velazquez is the RCR coordinator of the RISE2BEST program at UPR-M, has been the advisor of several student organizations and honor societies, and was the founder of the SACNAS-UPRM chapter. He publishes and develops pedagogical activities to support pre-college students, teachers and the community in science and research, and also is part of the University Institute of Community Development.

2015 SACNAS Distinguished Research Mentor Award

Elba Serrano, PhD

Regent's Professor of Biology, New Mexico State University

Dr. Elba Serrano earned her undergraduate degree in physics with distinction from the University of Rochester and her PhD in biological sciences from Stanford University with an emphasis in biophysics and neuroscience. Her research focuses on disorders of hearing and balance, tissue engineering, and neuroinformatics. More than 100 NMSU students have spearheaded research under her guidance while pursuing PhD, MS, and BS degrees. As Principal Investigator for NMSU's NIH BP-ENDURE and TWD-RISE programs, she has furthered biomedical research training for hundreds of NMSU graduate and undergraduate students. Dr. Serrano's distinctions include a Ford Fellowship, an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Lectureship on Women in Science and Engineering, and election as a Fellow of AAAS. She currently serves on NIDCD Council, is a member of the Advisory Committee to Dr. Francis Collins (the NIH Director), and is co-chair of the NIH ACD Working Group on Diversity. Dr. Serrano is the daughter of a US Army Sergeant and the first member of her family to complete a college degree.

2015 SACNAS Distinguished Student Mentor Award

Healani Chang, Dr.PH

Research Associate Specialist, PBRC, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Dr. Healani Chang grew up on the island of Oahu and attended the University of Hawaii on a scholarship to play for the women’s basketball team. In her senior year, she worked in a microbiology laboratory and studied the staple food crop of Hawaiians, the taro plant (colocasia esculenta). This led to her first publication as lead author, and she was hooked on research. Next, she joined a botany lab team where she worked on projects to increase the yield of various Hawaiian food crops. She then pursued her interests in Native Hawaiian health systems, earning a master’s and doctorate degree in public health.

Dr. Chang directed three NIH sponsored minority student research training grants: IMSD, MARC and STEP UP, in total more than 600 minority and Native American students. She also led an NIH-funded community-based diabetes epidemiology project on Hawaii Island.

Dr. Chang served two terms on the SACNAS Board of Directors and is a Friend of the Society Member. She also chaired the Native American Affairs Subcommittee.

In 2013, a cadre of highly motivated STEM students founded the ‘Ilima SACNAS Chapter at the University of Hawaii and invited Dr. Chang to serve as chapter advisor. The chapter earned the 2014 “Outstanding New Chapter” award. The ‘Ilima SACNAS Chapter’s community service component provides science that excites rural school students at the Pearl Harbor National Refuge, Kalaeloa Unit. Students learn about the Hawaiian ecological knowledge specific to that area and engage in conservation biology practices and habitat restoration of endangered and endemic plants and aquatic animals in the anchialine ecosystem home of the Hawaiian red shrimp ‘opae ‘ula, (halocaridina rubra).

2015 SACNAS Distinguished Student Mentor Award

Paul Barber, PhD

Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

Born in the deserts of Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Paul Barber is an improbable marine scientist. He received his BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. Subsequently, he pursued his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley under the supervision of Dr. Tyrone Hayes, where he studied the evolutionary genetics of canyon tree frogs. As an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, he shifted focus to the evolution and conservation of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle, the global epicenter of marine biodiversity. In 2004, Dr. Barber founded The Diversity Project to promote diversity in marine science. In 2009, he co-founded the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center to build biodiversity research capacity in one of the world’s most imperiled ecosystems. He is currently a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA. In this capacity, he also serves as the faculty director of the Program for Excellence in Education and Research in the Sciences (PEERS), the largest academic support program at UCLA for underrepresented and underserved students in STEM majors.


Click here for more information on the 2015 SACNAS National Conference.

Our 2015 Conference Sponsors

National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, USDA, UC San Diego, NASA, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Genentech, University of Southern California, NewScientist Jobs, Diversity in STEAM Magazine, and Hispanic Network Magazine. More information on our 2015 sponsors can be found here.

Social Media Networks

For further information on the conference and to follow SACNAS social media networks for latest updates and discussions please visit:

Conference Website:



Twitter:, #SACNAS2015




Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2020

Rendered 09/16/2020 10:21