Daniel Nunez Huaracha
is an undergraduate
at Harvard and LabXchange user.
When I was a kid, my vision of who I could and would become seemed limited, and I tended to see my future as a blue-collar worker. That was a familiar path to me, but I set a goal and was determined to pursue a college education at an Ivy League school. Now, I’m a first-generation college student studying neuroscience at Harvard University.
I chose neuroscience for several reasons, including the fact that my little sister has severe autism. Growing up with her made me want to improve the quality of life for people with neurodevelopmental disorders, and I’m uncovering deeper insights into how that’s possible by working at the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Growing up in Dallas, my family supported me, and I wasn’t discouraged from pursuing a career in science or going to college. But the lack of professional role models kept me from feeling that I could attain a job in a scientific field. I think many Hispanic-American or Latino students feel the same way I did, and we’re losing a lot of potential talent and diversity in science because of this mindset.
There are more than 60 million people of Hispanic heritage in the United States, and we make up 18.5% of the country’s population. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, I would love to help inspire the next generation of Hispanic students to pursue opportunities and careers in science.
When I was a younger student, I wish I had access to LabXchange, the free online learning platform developed by Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences and funded by the Amgen Foundation. Not only are the resources, articles and classes free, it connects students across the world with mentors in science to help create future innovators.
Gaining access to personalized instruction, cutting-edge virtual lab experiences and networking opportunities across the global scientific community is an amazing opportunity. It allows me to integrate my coursework and research in a way that I couldn’t — and didn’t know was even possible — before arriving on campus.
Anyone interested in discovering science and engaging with a supportive learning community should check out LabXchange. You can read narratives and personal stories submitted by scientists, and even establish real-life mentoring relationships through the platform.
For first-generation college students like me, no matter the course of study, mentors are essential. When it comes to science learning, it’s even more important to see and connect with trailblazers in the scientific community. I would like mentors to understand that although not every student comes from a family that can provide academic insight and career guidance, students from less educated families are just as capable as anyone else.
For me, neurosurgeon and scientist Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa has been an inspiring example of what is possible. He came to the United States as a migrant farm worker and then worked as a welder when he first started his college education. After receiving a degree from Harvard Medical School, he is now the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor and Chair of Neurologic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
I find his drive to help his family, and his unbreakable spirit, extremely inspiring.
The commitment of the Amgen Foundation and Harvard University to closing the science education gap for Hispanic students and future scientists through initiatives like LabXchange creates incredible opportunities to level the playing field for students with fewer resources. Through these efforts and others, the Amgen Foundation is helping to reimagine science education in a way that truly empowers and inspires success for everyone.
Over the past 30 years, the Amgen Foundation has contributed more than $175 million to advancing science education programming globally. In addition to LabXchange, the Amgen Foundation also supports education through other programs like Khan Academy, the Amgen Scholars Program and the Amgen Biotech Experience.