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SACNAS celebrates 50 years of advancing Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists

Longtime partnership with ACS benefits the chemistry enterprise

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
April 22, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 13

A large group of students on a stage holding up certificates.
Credit: Courtesy of SACNAS
Students are recognized for their research and presentation skills at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science’s 2022 National Diversity in STEM Conference.

This year, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), a longtime partner of the American Chemical Society, celebrates 50 years. The organization’s mission is to support students and professionals from these groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The SACNAS logo is shown. It has the words "SACNAS" at the top with the number "50" below it. There is an image of an atom ontop of the number fifty. At the bottom, there is a banner showing the years "1973-2023".
Credit: Courtesy of SACNAS

Alonzo Atencio, a biochemistry professor at the University of New Mexico, initiated the formation of SACNAS to address the lack of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American people in academia and government agencies. The society was incorporated in 1973 and ran its first annual meeting that year in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Approximately 50 members attended.

Today, SACNAS has more than 9,000 members and 126 student and professional chapters. These members are predominantly, but not exclusively, Chicano/Hispanic or Native American. The society’s biggest event each year is its National Diversity in STEM Conference, which in 2022 attracted more than 5,600 scientists, including students and professionals from academia, government, and industry. “It is the largest multicultural, multidisciplinary scientific conference in the US,” SACNAS president Charla Lambert says. The program includes scientific presentations and posters, motivational keynote talks, professional development sessions, a graduate school and career expo hall, and cultural celebrations. “Culture is really celebrated as part of the conference and is interwoven in the science that occurs there,” Lambert says.

Ingrid Montes standing behind a podium that displays the icon for the 2022 National Diversity in STEM Conference.
Credit: Courtesy of SACNAS
Ingrid Montes, a SACNAS board member, speaks at the opening ceremony of the 2022 National Diversity in STEM Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

SACNAS holds mentoring sessions, leadership training, and professional development programs year-round. SACNAS members act as mentors for Chicano/Hispanic and Native American students and professional scientists, says Ingrid Montes, a SACNAS board member and a past ACS board member. “Role models are so important for the young generation,” she says.

After working together informally for several years, in 2010 ACS and SACNAS entered the first of many formal partnerships. “ACS and SACNAS have the common goal of wanting a very diverse workforce in science,” Montes says. In 2022, SACNAS and ACS agreed to a 5-year commitment of partnership, which marks nearly 2 decades of official collaboration between the organizations.

“Partnering with SACNAS gives us the ability to reach out to communities that we wouldn’t be able to reach on our own,” says Victoria Fuentes, a program manager in the ACS Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DEIR).

Seven people stand in a line on a stage. Four hold colorful bags.
Credit: Courtesy of SACNAS
Juan Amador (left), SACNAS executive director, SACNAS past-president Pamela Padilla (second from right), and conference emcee Mónica Feliú-Mójer (right) of Ciencia Puerto Rico stand with the featured speakers at the 2022 National Diversity in STEM Conference. From second to left: Lydia Jennings, University of Arizona; Raychelle Burks, American University; Ana Maria Porras, University of Florida; and Judith Simcox, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Three people standing together and smiling.
Credit: Courtesy of SACNAS
From left: Charla Lambert, SACNAS president; Pamela Padilla, SACNAS past president; and Juan Amador, SACNAS executive director, pose at the closing plenary talk of the 2022 National Diversity in STEM Conference.

The partnership has evolved over time. Currently, ACS runs professional development events, hosts a booth, and sponsors a reception at SACNAS annual meetings, and throughout the year it hosts career webinars for SACNAS members. SACNAS representatives host a booth at the ACS spring and fall meetings, and ACS funds travel grants for some SACNAS students to attend these meetings and present posters at the ACS DEIR reception. In addition, Lambert is an adviser to the ACS Office of DEIR, together with representatives from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, and other organizations.

SACNAS will be holding events to celebrate its 50th anniversary during its 2023 National Diversity in STEM Conference in October in Portland, Oregon. ACS will also celebrate the milestone during an Office of DEIR reception at ACS Fall 2023 in San Francisco. For more information about SACNAS, visit

Nina Notman is a freelance writer based in Salisbury, England.


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