Arnaldo Díaz Vázquez, Ph.D., is the Assistant Dean for Research Training Programs, Director of Recruitment and Retention of Diversity Scholars, Director of the Office of Research Training Programs, and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. As Assistant Dean, Dr. Díaz Vázquez wears many hats. He works collaboratively with University leadership, Associate Deans and Directors, and program faculty to develop and implement targeted outreach, recruitment, and retention strategies aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented (UR) backgrounds pursuing Ph.D.s in biomedical graduate programs. Dr. Díaz Vázquez works with and provides academic and professional career guidance to trainees from underrepresented backgrounds across the spectrum of undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs in the biomedical sciences. He directs the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP) and the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PennPREP). Dr. Díaz Vázquez is also the Co-Director of the Penn – Postdoctoral Opportunities in Research and Teaching (PennPORT) IRACDA Program. He oversees diversity programming between Penn and partner teaching institutions (Lincoln University; Rutgers University, Camden; Delaware County Community College). Dr. Díaz Vázquez serves as the Penn liaison for The Leadership Alliance, an academic consortium developing UR students into leaders, and represents Penn Medicine in developing research training partnerships across the University for recruitment, retention, and support of scholars with diverse backgrounds. These activities facilitate interactions with highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing studies in the biomedical sciences, as well as with colleagues from other institutions across the country working toward the goal of supporting scholars with diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Díaz Vázquez received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras and was recruited to the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program at Texas A&M University in 2002. Dr. Díaz Vázquez received his Ph.D. in 2008 in the lab of Dr. Paul Cremer in the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Jim Hu in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics served as his co-chair. During his Ph.D. studies, Dr. Díaz Vázquez was awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31) award. Additionally, he received the 2004 Teaching Award from the Biochemistry Graduate Association (BGA). After earning his Ph.D., Dr. Díaz Vázquez pursued postdoctoral training in Cancer Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Díaz Vázquez’s advice to current graduate students:
“As a graduate student, it is essential that you take ownership of your career and training, and identify mentors who will support you. It is particularly critical to have a mentor who understands and values a healthy work-life balance. Performing well in your grad school courses and moving your research project forward is obviously important, but not at the cost of your health and wellness. It is normal to feel a bit lost and alone as you traverse the many challenges of the Ph.D. journey. The important thing is not to let those hardships bring you down, to celebrate the small victories, to make sure you take the time to do activities outside lab that fulfill you, and to ask for help.”