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Hamilton College students and faculty attended ABRCMS 2022.
After two years of supporting virtual conference attendance, ROOTS — Hamilton’s Society for Students of Color in STEM — took 14 members to the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS) in Anaheim, Calif.
The trip, which took place from Nov. 8 to 12, came at no fee to students, thanks to funding from the Dean of Faculty’s Office and a grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“For any undergraduate, conferences are empowering and offer a glimpse of what science looks like beyond the classroom,” Associate Professor of Chemistry Max Majireck said. “At ABRCMS, this group got to see the amazing and inherent diversity of STEM [fields].” Majireck, along with Assistant Professor of Biology Rhea Datta, attended the conference with students.

Kathy Guerra ’24, Chrissy Crespo ’25, and Sarah John ’24
Kathy Guerra ’24, Chrissy Crespo ’25, and Sarah John ’24 received awards for their outstanding presentations at the ABRCMS conference. Photo: Kathy Guerra ’24

Students arrived at the conference well prepared, having taken advantage of workshops and mock-presentation meetings organized by ROOTS co-chairs Sarah John ’24 and Tam Ha ’24. Ten of the 14 students presented their research at the conference, and Chrissy Crespo ’25, Kathy Guerra ’24, and John won presentation awards. 

“[Receiving an award in the neuroscience field] was one of my highlights of the conference,” Guerra said. Her winning poster conveyed the details of her summer research on brain development and prenatal gene delivery, which she conducted through the National Institute of Health.

Guerra, John, Naima Akter ’24, Jungwon Lee ’24, Jorge Perez-Vazquez ’24, and Frank Valoy ’23 also won the competitive ABRCMS Student Travel Awards. These awards covered their fees for travel, housing, and conference registration, which enabled ROOTS to cover the costs of other members and bring more students to the conference.

“[Receiving an award in the neuroscience field] was one of my highlights of the conference.”

When students were not presenting their research, they had the opportunity to attend keynote lectures from world-renowned scientists, smaller technical presentations, topical workshops, and networking dinners. Through these experiences, students saw and connected with other underrepresented scientists and students — an opportunity that was particularly rewarding. 

“The most valuable experience that I learned was that there will always be opportunities and hopes for students of color coming from a marginalized community like mine,” Ha said. “The conference inspired me to focus on the work that I am doing and keep on doing it, no matter the obstacles.”

Expect Opportunity

We have funds that enable you to conduct research with your faculty mentor, attend a national conference to present your findings, provide stipends for you to take on an unpaid internship, visit a museum, or catch a performance.

Originally founded by a small cohort of students who attended ABRCMS in 2019, ROOTS has always prioritized serving its members and providing resources for students of color to succeed in STEM, John said. Attending ABRCMS aligns closely with this mission, and the organization plans to continue attending the conference for years to come.

“The conference was an example of how people that look like me and my friends can and will transform the sciences,” Perez-Vazquez said. “ROOTS made this [trip] absolutely possible.”

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