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GSBS student José S. Enriquez Ortiz participates in the Yale Ciencia Academy, learns about professional development and diversity in the science field

September 21, 2022
Emily Rech/MD Anderson UTHealth Houston Graduate School

GSBS student José S. Enriquez Ortiz participates in the Yale Ciencia Academy, learns about professional development and diversity in the science field
GSBS student José S. Enriquez Ortiz participates in the Yale Ciencia Academy, learns about professional development and diversity in the science field

When José S. Enriquez Ortiz received an email from the Career Development Office about applying to the Yale Ciencia Academy (YCA), he immediately recognized it as a great opportunity to receive professional development training and work with peers who have similar experiences in the scientific community. After being accepted into the prestigious YCA program, José traveled to Yale University for a week filled with exercises, discussions, and networking opportunities all geared towards teaching students how to begin facilitating diversity in their own professional and academic settings. His participation will continue until June 2023, when he and his cohort will welcome the next class to the program.

The Yale Ciencia Academy is a program geared towards equipping biomedical and health sciences doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds with the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to find great postdoctoral positions. Students in the program are placed in both in-person and virtual activities throughout the year that foster an importance in implementing diversity in their scientific field and overcoming adversity in their academic and professional careers. YCA also provides students with dynamic academic career planning.

As José begins to map out his post-grad journey, he has found that YCA has helped him identify his own goals and preferences for his career. “I came to the GSBS with the knowledge that I want to implement my passion for chemistry into cancer detection and treatment. I’ve always known that I want to be involved with cancer imaging in my post-doc career, and I want to continue my work with leukemia, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. However, since being a part of YCA, I have begun to see how quality mentorship has played a positive role in my academic upbringing, and I have recognized a calling in myself to provide the same guidance I received to the next generation of scientists.” José plans to pursue a position as a faculty member at a hybrid institution, meaning he will be occupied with a combination of both research and teaching at a university.

Another valuable lesson that José has gotten from his participation with YCA is the validation that he and his peers are not imposters, and that they should go into their postdoc futures with the confidence that they have the skills they need to succeed. This point was driven home during an improvisation exercise in which students were taught to trust in their science communication skills. In this training, random images were projected onto a board, and each student would have to give a presentation on whatever popped up. José felt that accomplishing this task fostered confidence in his and his peers’ abilities to convey their scientific insight on the fly.

José believes that the most poignant wisdom he has received from his experience with YCA is that as a student from an underrepresented background in research, it’s easy to feel isolated, but that this is not the case. The program has proven to José and his peers that they are not alone in their experiences, and that knowledge has provided a sense of motivation and community in the YCA participants. “Yale Ciencia Academy gave me the opportunity to work with peers who have similar goals of improving the diversity of the scientific community. I’m also really excited to bring that knowledge back to the GSBS and help students reach their goals.”

José would like to thank his PI, Pratip Bhattacharya, PhD, for encouraging him to apply despite fears of rejection. He would also like to acknowledge the Biochemistry and Cell Biology program and the Cancer Systems Imaging department at MD Anderson Cancer Center for their constant support, as well as his friends and family for always being there for him and his endeavors. When José is not occupied with lab work or training, he loves to spend his time playing tennis and volleyball, traveling and hiking in national parks across the U.S., and finding great places to eat around Houston. He highly recommends Caracol, Kata Robata, and Hugo’s as his favorite restaurants.

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