Sara Blick-Nitko, M.S., attended the 2016 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) in Tampa, Fla. It was her first ABRCMS meeting, and it set a high bar for the science conferences she’s attended since then.
“I especially enjoyed attending ABRCMS because of the diversity and inclusion,” Blick-Nitko said. “It was really inspiring to see so many diverse minorities in multiple areas of research connecting with each other.”
At the time, Blick-Nitko was preparing to apply to doctoral programs, so the insights and advice she received from professors and researchers at the meeting’s roundtable discussions were critical to her development. She’s now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rochester pursuing a doctoral degree in pathology, which she expects to earn in May 2023. Her research focuses on the multifactorial roles of platelets in uncomplicated malaria infection with respect to immunometabolism.
Blick-Nitko was always interested in science, but it wasn’t until college that she found her passion for pathology through her coursework in immunology and infectious diseases.
“I find the human body fascinating and how our immune system has protected and/or failed when we are exposed to infectious diseases,” she said. “The field of immunology has rapidly evolved in recent years and it’s exciting to see what we’re capable of doing.”
Blick-Nitko’s research aligns with ABRCMS’ scientific discipline of immunology. The field is always evolving and so much remains to be discovered, she said.
“I am proud to be involved in an evolutionary field and to push for a better world for people to live in,” she said. “Malaria is a curable disease and can be preventable, but we have not developed an effective strategy for the eradication of malaria.”
As a Deaf person, Blick-Nitko has struggled to find equitable access during her scientific journey. She regularly finds herself educating others about her needs and advocating for herself in a hearing-dominant and audio-centered world.
“Deaf people can do anything but hear,” she said. “My knowledge and self-advocacy have helped me through these challenges, as well as sharing my struggles with Deaf peers in Ph.D. programs. Through these conversations, we’re able to uplift each other and share advice and ideas on how to improve our accessibility. My advice is to always advocate for yourself and do not accept any less than what you know you deserve.”