D’Juan Farmer, Ph.D., attended his first Annual Biomedical Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) more than a decade ago when he was an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles. It was the largest conference he’d ever attended, and he was awed and amazed by the experience.
“ABRCMS showed me that there’s a diverse group of budding scientists in the world with common goals and interests,” said Farmer, now an assistant professor in the department of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA.
The conference helped him build a supportive network of diverse doctors and scientists, an opportunity that he said is unique to ABRCMS. “Some of the people I met at [ABRCMS] meetings I now see in many positions in medicine and academia,” Farmer said. ABRCMS has also allowed him to connect with younger scientists as a mentor, sharing his experiences and helping them achieve their own goals.
Farmer’s research aligns with the Developmental Biology and Genetics scientific discipline at ABRCMS. His interest in the field was borne from his desire to understand the origins of diseases common in the African American community.
“I had grown up around people with myriad such diseases and I was driven to understand the biological basis of their risk,” Farmer said. “Along the way, I learned a lot about environmental justice and inequalities in our society that drive populations to be more susceptible to some diseases.”
Farmer’s scientific journey includes failures and successes, but he hasn’t let the low points distract him.
“While I am still growing in my skills to overcome the mental hurdles that arise when setbacks occur, what helps me most is appreciating that I am doing what I love. I have a career that I chose and that makes me happy,” he said. “Growing up in an underserved community, I’m especially aware that this is a privilege. This allows me to contextualize my failure and stay in a mindset of gratitude and appreciation.”
Farmer remains fascinated by the process of embryogenesis that sparked his initial research inquiries.
“Despite all the different pathways and genes required to control organ development and function, so much goes right most of the time across the animal kingdom. How that process happens remains the beacon for all my research goals and interests,” Farmer said.
ABRCMS has given him a fellowship of scientists who understand his path and walk it with him. Attending each conference gives him new perspectives as he connects with peers and mentors students.
“I learned that even though there are times when I feel isolated, I am not alone and there are people who both precede and follow me along this journey toward a scientific career,” Farmer said. “I always leave [ABRCMS] refreshed and motivated.”