recommendation is to start small and local. Many departments invite multiple speakers to give short talks at seminars
over the course of an academic year. As a result, the number
of available seminars can be overwhelming and could easily
prove too time-consuming, so you must carefully select which
ones you want to sit through. Ask yourself:
5. It’s rewarding.
• Does the topic align with my current or future research
interests, or both? If so, the speaker could provide some insight into your approach to your research project.
Getting involved by using your knowledge, skill, and talents to
help others will make you grow personally and professionally.
It provides a sense of belonging because it feels like you are
contributing to making the world a better place. Also, getting
involved in situations that push you out of your comfort zone
and succeeding in them boosts your self-esteem.
• Do I identify with the speaker in terms
of race, gender, or cultural background?
If so, having a one-on-one conversation
with that individual is a must. Surely,
she or he has faced situations related to
social issues that you might face in the
future. The speaker could lend first-hand
advice about how to avoid letting them
be an obstacle to your success.
For me, it’s all about reenergizing myself and finding the
If you can’t find
motivation to continue my journey. National meetings pro-
vide the perfect scenarios to do this. These
events bring together people from differ-
ent cultures, disciplines, and ethnicity who
have a common goal: contributing to their
field. Attending networking events and
professional development activities within
conferences is where everything comes to-
gether: You take a break without the guilty
feeling, develop your interpersonal skills,
network, and both identify role models and
become one. At the end of the day, you’ll
find that these experiences make graduate
school a rewarding path.
that suits your
needs or goals,
• Does the presenter currently occupy a
position that I’m very interested in? If the
answer is yes, talk to the speaker. He or
she can provide guidance about what it
takes to get there and how to start working towards that goal.
4. You will become a role model.
One of the most significant things I learned as an undergraduate is that there is always someone observing you. Everything you are, everything you say, and everything you do
impacts another person, whether you realize it or not. Let’s set
this one up. Imagine you have volunteered to be a Science Fair
judge, to mentor a local Chem Club, or to give demonstrations with student organizations.
Opportunities like these allow you to engage with younger generations. Those students are at a stage where every
interaction they have will affect their perspective on science
and who can engage in it. Such young individuals need young
scientists like you to get involved with their activities because
it is easier for them to relate to your generation than to older
ones. Seeing what they could achieve and who they could be
in the short term will inspire them.
This is particularly important if you, like me, identify as
an underrepresented minority: We need role models. We need
people who have traveled the same path we are on and come
out successful; they let us know that outcome is possible despite obstacles that may come our way. By getting involved in
this way, you will also become a role model amongst your colleagues, who in turn might become role models within their
communities. I assure you, at least one person will follow your
footsteps because you have shown her or him the impact it
has when you get involved for the sake of helping others.
A Final Word…
The opportunities to volunteer, to network, to inspire, to reenergize, to GET INVOLVED are there; just look for them. If
you can’t find an opportunity that suits your needs or goals,
create one. Getting involved is the only way to keep moving
forward as individuals, as part of the scientific community,
and as a society. n
Another opportunity to get involved and affect the
world positively is to write nonscientific articles (e.g.,
blogs, etc.). This also shows engagement in the
scientific community. If you are interested in writing
for the ACS Graduate & Postdoctoral Chemist contact
GradEd@acs.org using “Writing for the Chemist” in
the subject line.
Stephanie Santos-Díaz completed her
B.S. in Chemistry at Universidad de
Puerto Rico (UPR) at Cayey. Currently, she is a graduate student in the
Chemical Education Division at
Purdue University and is the recipient
of a fellowship from the National
Science Foundation Graduate Research