AMES, Iowa – Daniela Flores is the first Iowa State University graduate student elected to serve on the board of directors for the Society for the Advancement of Chicano/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
The 44 year-old organization’s 6,000 members make up the largest multidisciplinary and multiethnic organization in the United States. The organization provides students, scientists and professionals networking and recruiting opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
“The organization has been a huge driving factor in my career and I am excited to have a voice in shaping the future of an organization that has helped me so much,” said Flores, a doctorate student in interdepartmental genetics.
Corey Welch, director of the Iowa State STEM Scholars program, also serves on the board. Welch believes it’s the first time in SACNAS history that two individuals from one university have served together on the board. Welch serves on the executive committee as board secretary.
“The organization is dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists, from college students to professionals, and in attaining advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in STEM to serve our nation’s workforce,” Welch said.
Flores attended her first SACNAS conference in Seattle five years ago. That’s where she met Sue Lamont, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in animal science, and Gustavo MacIntosh, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, representing Iowa State at the conference. The information she received from them convinced her to pursue an advanced degree in genetics at Iowa State.
“They were so excited to meet me and they talked about the great genetics program at Iowa State,” Flores said. “I never would have applied at Iowa State if it hadn’t been for that conference.”
Flores grew up in Blaine, Minnesota and developed an interest in genetics while doing 4-H projects related to dogs and rabbits. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2013 from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.
She’s currently doing research with Fred Janzen, an Iowa State ecology, evolution and organismal biology professor. Her molecular genetics research is focused on understanding how changes in temperature and other environmental factors influence sex determination in turtles. The imperiled group of reptiles is especially threatened by environmental change due to the lack of sex chromosomes in many species. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her mentors and become a university professor.
“My real passion is teaching. I think I can reach more students in the classroom as a teacher and use research as a tool,” Flores said.
When Flores arrived at Iowa State she wanted to continue her involvement in SACNAS, so she and other graduate students started the SACNAS student chapter on campus. That was four years ago. Since then, she’s served as secretary and president of the club. Now she’s serving on the SACNAS board at the national level.
Flores begins her three-year term in January and will attend the annual national conference next fall in San Antonio.
Next semester, the chapter will hold informational meetings about undergraduate research, graduate fellowships and career opportunities. Flores said SACNAS helps students find paid internships that provide networking and learning opportunities. For more information about Iowa State SACNAS chapter activities, visit http://www.sacnas.stuorg.iastate.edu/.