Friday, December 9, 2022

Cuentos-Contos Week 1

 In the Fall of 2021, I sought out to highlight the stories of Latino/a/x researchers generally in "Ecology and Evolution". With the support of Dr. Carly Kenkel, Dr. Oliver Rizk and Emily Aguirre, we were able to put on a series titled "Cuentos-Contos" (short stories in Spanish and Portuguese) to be shared to our Marine and Environmental Biology section at the University of Southern California. Now I am sharing these short stories to Ecoevoevoevo to share with a wider research community as I believe it is important to highlight researchers from similar backgrounds in academia as this space is often isolating. Throughout the next couple of weeks, I hope you feel inspiration, empathy and joy as every person details how their career, passion and aspirations intersect with their culture and identity. To start off, I highlight several talented scientists: Emily Aguirre, Ivan Moreno, Melody Aleman, and Dr. Suzana Leles.

Angeleno microbial ecologist, Emily, studies algal-bacterial symbiosis in the emerging cnidarian system, Aiptasia pallida, using genomic, culturing and microscopy techniques. In this cuento, she highlights her support system as a "non-traditional" student and discusses inefficient, outdated and harmful academic structures. Emily concludes by suggesting solutions for improving the academy, and transforming it into a space that truly supports talent, ingenuity and diversity. 

 Long Beach raised microbial ecologist, Ivan, studies microbes in extreme environments via genomics. He discusses the importance of a work-life balance as an underrepresented student (soccer and video games!) and how this keeps him grounded. Ultimately, Ivan believes that if he strives to be the best scientist and researcher now, he will be able to provide those same opportunities for others once he's an established academic.

Pennsylvanian marine microbial ecologist, Melody, breaks down the racial, social and class obstacles she faced as a Latina, on her way to grad school. She addresses the importance of utilizing the university's mental health resources, and how this has helped her cope with the global pandemic and anxiety. Lastly, Melody gives a shout out to her former/current mentors and encourages departments to support their Latinx students through more funding opportunities and access to genuine mentorship.

Brazilian oceanographer, Suzana, discusses he academic trajectory across the globe, and how she ended up building mathematical querying microbial food webs in Los Angeles, California. She addresses the supporting factors (and discouraging aspects) that allowed her to succeed and become a Ph.D., despite enduring hurtful experiences and how she continued on an academic track. Finally, Suzana provides helpful tips on building welcoming spaces for non-native English speakers!

To learn more about the featured scientists reach out via their emails or websites. Ivan -  imoreno[at], Melody - maleman[at], Suzana -  suzanaleles[@], Emily - Emily Aguirre (

To check out the full versions of all the Cuentos-Contos, follow this link

And for now, Hasta luego! 

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