In 2019, Tyler Pugeda, M.Sc., was in the first year of his master’s studies when he attended the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS). Before that conference, he didn’t realize that science could be a collaborative endeavor, that people were actively working to improve diversity and inclusion, or that research trajectories could evolve.
Pugeda, who is Deaf, found ABRCMS to be an incubator that inspired him to connect, to communicate and to continue his scientific journey.
“The most important lesson I learned from ABRCMS is that I, like many others, have the power to make rippling changes that make science accessible, inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” Pugeda said.
Pugeda’s early research fit nicely into ABRCMS’ Biochemistry and Molecular Biology scientific discipline, but his work has changed course. Neuroscience was a large part of his research for two years, and that influenced his current interest in Bioengineering (Engineering, Physics and Math), particularly regenerative medicine, stem cells and organ transplantation.
“I gravitate toward regenerative medicine and stem cells because they hold so much potential for revolutionizing the way we practice science and the way humanity places hope on us,” Pugeda said.
For most of his life, Pugeda felt scientific study was reserved for a privileged few who had the resources and access needed to pursue it. But his own perception of science has evolved, and he now believes that everyone can learn, grow and become wiser with time.
“Science does not discriminate. It has always welcomed all perspectives, no matter what,” he said. “Science only cares about how you push yourself to find answers, to make an impact, to make progress. Science also helps you discover who you are or want to be, even if it means leaving science behind. If you leave science, you can always return if you so desire.”
Pugeda received a Fulbright Research Grant to conduct neuroscience research in Germany and recently delivered a virtual poster presentation at an international conference. But his academic road has been filled with ups and downs, including participation in programs that didn’t allow him to flourish because they lacked equitable access to resources. He has overcome much of that adversity, he said, thanks to mentors who promoted diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB).
“I realize that the major low points have been an important part of my growth and my DEIB philosophy. I would like to think that these exist to build my resilience and ability to value excellence,” Pugeda said. “I do not wish for minoritized scientists to endure traumatic challenges, so I feel very compelled to join a large community of DEIB leaders in science and engage in DEIB efforts. I’m grateful that we have that in ABRCMS.”