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Since 2019, I have worked with the AQUA Foundation, a non-profit in South Florida by and for LGBTQ+ women. I joined the foundation as a scholarship recipient and have been a scholar for two consecutive years. This foundation provided $60,000 of scholarships total to 12 LGBTQ+ scholars in 2020. As a scholar I have participated in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 in their leadership training and mentorship program. With the AQUA foundation I have participated in the following events:

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk

  • South Florida AIDs Walk

  • University of Miami Emerging Leaders Conference

  • AQUA Affair foundation fundraiser

  • AQUA Family Barbecue

In addition, as a graduate student leader I have participated in:

  • Mentor in the Graduate Undergraduate Mentoring Program (2020, 2021)

  • oSTEM Undergraduate Student Mentorship Panel (2021)

  • LGBTQ+ Student Center Leadership Spotlight (2020)(

  • Annual Point Foundation Fundraiser Brunch (2018, 2019)

  • South Florida Task Force Gala (2019)

  • GenderChill student led fundraiser for PFLAG South Miami (2019)

  • DragOUT student led drag show fundraiser for SunServ (2019, 2020)

Recently, I joined the Genetics Society of America as a member of the Career Development subcommittee for their Early Career Leadership Program. As part of the subcommittee I have:

  • Interviewed and written an article for the Decoding Life series (publish date TBD)

  • Participated in a scientific writing workshop

  • Written a member spotlight, to be featured in the Genes and Genomes blog, focused on my early career and research interests (August 2021)

  • Provided content for the Early Career Scientists weekly newsletter

Finally, I am one of two graduate student representatives on our departmental Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force. Our mission is to improve the culture and climate of our department and campus and to remove barriers to participation for students from traditionally excluded groups. A few recent task force accomplishments:

  • Bi-annual campus climate survey and student town hall discussion

  • Monthly DEI newsletters to provide resources and upcoming event information

  • Implicit bias training for faculty and graduate students 



Twitter: @melissakd6

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