Nixon Arauz

Doctoral Student in the Social & Behavioral Sciences Program  at the School of Medicine

Striving & Thriving at VCU talks to Nixon about his undergraduate STEM experience, how his culture influences his work, and what it means to be a STEM student.

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An interview with Nixon

What does it mean to you to be a STEM student?

From a very young age I have been drawn to a prospective career in STEM. One of my early exposures to STEM began when I was in high school. The research teacher selected several students to join a lab at a local college associated with my high school. I had so much fun learning about gel electrophoresis. That experience solidified my desire to pursue a career in STEM. Being a STEM student allows me to ask questions I have about everyday life and complex issues. More importantly, I can be myself, bring my life experiences and perspective to advance knowledge while inspiring the next generation.

How does your culture and heritage influence your work?

As a Garifuna born in a small town I can vividly remember the paradise on earth I had the privilege to grow up in. The Garifuna people are a resilient ethnic group.  Despite our limited access to resources,  we were all equipped to be proud of our heritage and where we come from. That characteristic of resilience continues to run through my veins as I prepare myself to contribute to advancing knowledge in STEM. I live through my ancestors and it is because of the fortitude they give me that I am able to come to work every day ready to tackle any challenge before me.

Is there anything you miss about undergrad?

I love connecting with other people. I love hearing the stories that motivate others to pursue the work that they do. My undergraduate experience provided me with the opportunity to establish lasting relationships. Something that I miss about undergrad are the opportunities to connect with my peers. I found a lot of value in connecting with my peers through the long studying sessions, the fun extracurricular activities, and by sharing our passions with one another.

Do you have any advice for other STEM students?

First, we need to hear what you have to contribute to make life better for us and generations to come. When you are in a lab, classroom, or in the field collecting data,  bring your entire self and your ancestors with you. Your perspective and worldview are so important and invaluable. Don't forget to reach for others as you come up in the process. Being an academic doesn't have to be a lonely place when you can pull others with you. Lastly, you don't need to be an established researcher to give advice to your peers.