Mar 06, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Cancer Learning Center

When Gloria Slattum, PhD, began her career as a scientist, she says support from other women scientists was crucial.

“It is important to have good mentors and role models at all steps in our careers,” she says. “This is how I started in science and it is how I keep motivated to stay in. When I see great women doing great things, I want to learn from them and be one of them.”

When she’s not researching cancer in the Rosenblatt Lab at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), Slattum is doing what she can to support women who want to become scientists.

Slattum believes the reason fewer women pursue careers in research is that women are supposed to fill many roles, “and no one tells us how we’re supposed to do it all. It’s a problem of figuring out how to balance a career, motherhood, and a personal life. We need to work together to learn those balances,” she says. “I think that is where networking with others will help.”

The University of Utah Health Sciences Center’s Women in Medicine & Science program aims to meet this need. According to the program’s website, its mission is “to foster the academic progress of women faculty, housestaff, graduate students, and medical students through education, advocacy, mentoring, and networking.” The University of Utah’s ACCESS Program for Women in Science & Mathematics aids female high school graduates interested in science and math careers with scholarships and mentorship programs.

Slattum, who grew up in Colombia, also feels strongly about cultural diversity in science.

“It’s not about the color of your skin,” she explains. “It’s about how people from different places will tackle the same problem. That’s the strength of diversification in science. It may be that you have a different way of approaching the problem based on your background.”

Slattum participates in the University of Utah Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter, the goal of which is to promote recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in science, including women of all backgrounds. The SACNAS chapter sponsors lectures, professional development seminars, and field trips for middle and high school students to visit HCI’s labs.

In addition, Slattum has taught students in Utah Valley University’s PREP program, an intensive science and mathematics course for underrepresented middle schoolers.

In 2013, Slattum had the chance to mentor a young Latina student from the Salt Lake Center of Science Education, an experience which Slattum says benefitted both women.

“She graduated from high school with excellent hands-on experience in basic science and decided to pursue her undergraduate studies with the goal of become a scientist,” says Slattum. “And I became more aware and committed to my responsibility to help future women scientists by learning the ropes of being a mentor myself.”

Cancer Learning Center

Huntsman Cancer Institute

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