Conference Artwork

“Holding and Sharing our Past and STEM Futures”

By Robin Aguilar, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Washington, Department of Genome Sciences

“Holding and Sharing our Past and STEM Futures” is an art piece that acknowledges the proud and humble history of SACNAS and how this organization has delivered an incredible impact on trainees at all levels with marginalized identities in STEM.

2023 Conference ArtworkAt the center of the art piece is an oval frame containing the mountains, forests, and sacred waters that honor the Indigenous Peoples of Portland, Oregon, and specifically the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes and bands who have cultivated lasting relationships with the land as well as the Columbia and Willamette rivers. I wanted to include this scene in a frame to further represent how it’s critical to cultivate strong communities and futures in STEM with the guidance of our mentors, ancestors, and those who have created knowledge before us. To the top left of the oval, is an eagle and the bottom center is a salmon, which represents the local wildlife that are culturally relevant to life and its cycles in the Pacific Northwest.

The butterflies highlight the lived experiences of DACA dreamers who are also a part of the SACNAS community. To the bottom center of the frame is a rose drawn in the style of huipil embroidery, which is specific to my own Indigenous Latinx culture and is also intended to represent the flower of Portland. I chose to add these colorful flowers above the hands that hold up the framed scene because of the importance of creating and growing community spaces in STEM.

By navigating advocacy in my own scientific career, I’ve found ways to bring my own authenticity to my work. Likewise, these flowers and hands also acknowledge the lasting work and relationships that SACNAS has curated over its 50 years toward building uplifting and empowering STEM communities. Within the oval also lies the sun which is the SACNAS logo and incorporates the Yaxkin, as the sun that sits behind the mountains where local rivers and life are touched by the glyph of the sun god and the nine rays.

Within the clouds lie symbols relevant to science (DNA and biochemical models), technology (a network map), engineering (a lever system), and math (geometry) to represent how our ideas come together in the landscapes that we shape. Putting this particular scene together was incredibly special to me as a Ph.D. student who is wrapping up my dissertation with plans to defend this fall quarter at UW Genome Sciences. I believe that I wouldn’t have made it here without the support of my loved ones and communities within and beyond the Pacific Northwest.

SACNAS played a huge role in my ability to connect with mentors and scholars and I really wanted to capture the sentiment of how important it is to contribute to healthy and supportive training environments in STEM.

About the Artist

Robin Aguilar (they/them) is a mixed-race Latinx person who identifies as queer and trans/genderfluid. In addition to pursuing a Ph.D., they are a mixed media graphic artist and illustrator who is passionate about incorporating scientific and natural elements into their illustration work. Robin enjoys using dynamic colors that remind them of their bright culture and upbringing as low-income and first-generation scholar from East Los Angeles. They are a strong advocate for improving the lives of marginalized and underrepresented scientists within genomics and in the greater STEM community.

In addition to their work by creating mentorship and community spaces in STEM, their experience as a graphic artist has allowed them to have their art featured in department seminars, journal covers, and research papers.

In their future work, they aspire to be a graphic novelist, writer, and educator and they continue to share aspirations for brighter and more inclusive STEM communities and futures.

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