Tamuka M. Chidyausiku, Ph.D., attended his first Annual Biomedical Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) in 2011 as an undergraduate at Claflin University, a historically Black university in Orangeburg, S.C. The meeting was held in St. Louis, Mo., and he has vivid memories of it.
“I remember it well because I won an award,” said Chidyausiku, who is now a principal scientist at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “It was my first-ever poster award for communicating my science, which put me on the path I’ve been on ever since.”
Chidyausiku did a summer research internship at Purdue University the summer before his first ABRCMS experience. And while the poster award was icing on the cake, the real treat was reconnecting with the other summer interns while presenting his research from the Panasik lab at Claflin.
“That was the first time it hit me that research is a real-world skill that people are employing at other college campuses,” Chidyausiku said. “We were all bonded by the idea that we are in the same STEM field and we knew each other. It’s the seed that builds that community.”
Chidyausiku grew up in Zimbabwe and didn’t have many scientific role models. None of his family members had gone into the sciences; his mother was a secretary and his father was a factory worker.
“Now I had a community of several people, not just in my cohort, but at different career levels within my cohort,” Chidyausiku said. “When you’re a part of this community, you also associate with professors you can now look up to. You have this network you can tap into and ask questions about your journey through STEM.”
Chidyausiku also places great value on the opportunity to learn how to communicate about his research to different audiences at ABRCMS.
“As a scientist, you need to be able to talk to people in a way that they understand what you’re doing, whether they’re collaborators or they’re carrying on the project to the next level,” he said.
Chidyausiku was focused on biochemistry when he first attended ABRCMS. His attention has switched to structural biology at Novartis, where he’s working to discover new biotherapeutics for unmet medical needs. He’s passionate about the science behind making new proteins and he even holds a few patents.
“This is a field that’s exploding right now. But I would never have found it without those first interactions at ABRCMS,” he said.
As a science educator, Chidyausiku takes community service work seriously, but infuses it with fun and social media savvy. His @STEAMulater YouTube channel features videos tagged #HipHopBiochemistry, and he strives to keep scientists connected and educated in relevant ways on Facebook, TikTok and Twitter. You can find “Dr. Muk” at linktree/steamulater.
Chidyausiku has experienced ABRCMS at several levels—as a student-scientist, as a recruiter and as a virtual attendee. At all levels, he has seen firsthand the impact that ABRCMS has on minoritized scientists.
“If I can help the next scientist find ABRCMS and find their community that will put them on a path similar to mine, or even better, I’m going to do everything I can,” he said.