Alberto Cintrón-Colón selected as a Yale Ciencia Academy Fellow

The Yale Ciencia Academy welcomes a new class of young science leaders

This week, 40 young science leaders will kick off their year as fellows of the Yale Ciencia Academy (YCA) for Career Development at an in-person meeting held to coincide with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA (February 13-17, 2020). Western Michigan University is represented through the participation of Alberto Cintrón-Colón.
Alberto Cintrón-Colón is a fourth-year PhD candidate with a focus on neurobiology and physiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. During his undergraduate career, he completed two REU programs at Western Michigan University and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Alberto's current research is understanding what processes are essential for neurotrophic factor expression. More specifically, how do sedentary-aging and exercise impact the production of neurotrophic factors and maintenance of the nervous and muscle tissue?

Alberto has three main career goals. First, to become a professor focusing on creating innovative and engaging courses in neurobiology and physiology. Second, becoming a PI, exploring different pathways of different neurotrophic factors in the nervous system and how they affect the physiology and immune system of animal models. Lastly, create a summer research training program where students can participate in workshops involving a wide array of lab techniques and on how to read and write scientific literature. Before pursuing a PhD, Alberto was a high school science teacher at Thomas Alva Edison School in Caguas, Puerto Rico, teaching biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental sciences. Outside of academia, Alberto enjoys cooking, exercising, music, coffee, and doing outreach activities.

 The YCA provides doctoral students from underrepresented backgrounds in the life and health sciences with opportunities for mentoring, networking, skills development, and contributing to their communities through science outreach. The program is led by the non-profit organization Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR) in collaboration with Yale University. Fellows must apply to be selected to participate in the year-long, mostly virtual program which leverages the CienciaPR community—one of the largest networks of Hispanic/Latinx scientists in the world.

During the in-person meeting, fellows participate in science communication, networking, and science outreach workshops and use improv exercises to build trust and a sense of community. Fellows also participate in the AAAS Meeting, which offers additional professional development and career exploration opportunities. The rest of the year, fellows gather for online conversations with role models and mentors who share advice on academic and professional milestones and expose trainees to a range of careers, as well as for peer-led and facilitator-guided discussions on overcoming common concerns and challenges related to graduate school and research careers. A series of online workshops also helps them to develop actionable career plans, establish effective mentoring relationship (both as mentees and mentors), and incorporate inclusive science teaching practices. As part of the modeling of proactive career advancement practices, fellows receive individual feedback on their career plans from program staff twice a year.

One of the most innovative aspects of the program is that YCA fellows are guided to design and implement a science outreach project that helps them put into practice transferable skills (e.g. science communication, leadership, etc.) and allows them to connect with a community they care about.  “The Yale Ciencia Academy complements traditional graduate training with access to a diverse network of peers, role models and advisors”, said Dr. Giovanna Guerrero-Medina, Principal Investigator and Director of the YCA. “The goal is to help students gain clarity in their academic and professional goals and become the scientists they want to be. We are excited about the talent and promise among this new class of YCA fellows.”

Started in 2016 and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the YCA has thus far trained four cohorts for a total of 154 young scientists from more than 70 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico. The program has been shown to help students define the career they want to pursue, improve their professional development and mentoring practices, and increase their confidence in their ability to navigate graduate school and career transitions successfully.  The peer community of support and science outreach project are particularly highly-rated elements among past YCA participants with more than 135 outreach projects completed over the past four years, reaching more than 25,000 people. The 2020 class is composed of 40 students from 29 institutions nationwide. You can meet the full class of 2020 YCA Fellows here.

About Ciencia Puerto Rico
CienciaPR is a nonprofit organization that connects more than 12,000 Puerto Rican and Hispanic scientists, students, and educators worldwide through an innovative online platform. By leveraging its community’s collective knowledge, the organization has created thousands of resources to improve science education and help forge the next generation of Hispanic/Latinx STEM leaders.
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