As part of the diversity intiatives in the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, the School welcomes Hector Sanchez as the Diversity Fellow for Guarini. Hector received his Ph.D. from the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth College in the O'Toole/Berwin labs where he studied host-microbe interactions. We asked him a few questions about his path to graduate school and his current position.
Tell us about your path to graduate school:
My path to grad school started in second year of undergrad at the University of California, Irvine. It's funny now that I look back on it. I was working part-time at a local post-office when I received a random email from my now undergraduate mentor Dr. Marlene de la Cruz, basically asking me to quit my job and to apply to the Minority Science Program (MSP) to conduct research in a lab. Mind you, up to that email, I had no previous interaction with Dr. de la Cruz and was completely clueless as to what bench science was all about. Yet taking that leap of faith was the best decision of my academic and scientific career. After joining MSP, I conducted research in a wet lab and instantly fell in love with it. I was running PCRs, gels, and inoculating bacteria; techniques that I'd only read about in textbooks were now making sense to me. During my time at MSP, I began to present my research at national conferences like SACNAS, AAAS, and ABRCMS. It was at ABRCMS where I was first introduced to Dartmouth and to my future graduate mentor Dr. Brent Berwin. Ultimately, I choose Dartmouth because of the collaborative research environment at MCB and my first initial impressions I received from the Dartmouth booth at ABCRMS.
Tell us about some experiences that prompted your passion for DEI:
One of the earliest experiences that prompted my passion for DEI was during undergrad when a group of friends and I started a student led group called ANIMO. We would visit underprivilege high schools in the greater Los Angeles area and lead discussions/workshops about applying for colleges. It was a privilege to answer questions and interact with students who would also become first-generation college students. Co-leading the Guarini-wide town halls for the various graduate programs spurred conversations about race and diversity efforts at Dartmouth. These townhalls were both difficult and motivating since it made me cognizant about representation in science and how we must become better citizens for our communities locally, regionally, and nationally.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as fellow?
I hope to put the Guarini Graduate School on the map. I want prospective students to look at Guarini not for its Ivy league distinction but for the diverse group of students, research, and culture that we have cultivated here. I know this will take time, but I am excited to start on this meaningful work. Ever since undergrad, I have always been advocating for representation in science and higher education. Now, through this position, I hope I can make that a reality. I am currently working on the ASURE applicant pool for this year's in-person summer experience, fingers crossed. As well as setting up an application system for current graduate students across programs to travel to their undergraduate institution to network, talk about their research, and recruit for Guarini, all expenses paid too.
Any ideas for next steps?
Not now, but I do know that I want to continue in this space and continuing advocating for URM students to pursue a higher education. Anything is possible, si se puede!