PhD Student Laura Esquivel Awarded New York Academy of Sciences Fellowship

Laura Esquivel
Laura Esquivel

NYU Silver third-year PhD student Laura Esquivel has been selected as a 2019 Science Alliance Leadership Training (SALT) Program Fellow by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Each year, the fellowship provides exceptional PhD students in STEM fields with preparation and training to assume leadership roles throughout their professional careers. Through a five-day in-person training and nine subsequent months of webinars, Q&A sessions, and supplemental materials, SALT Fellows develop their leadership and communication skills, expand their networks, and chart their course for career success.

Laura, whose research interest is health disparities and who aims to become a faculty member at a top tier research institution, said she applied for the fellowship to gain additional career readiness and soft skills to succeed in the competitive academic marketplace. “Like those in other sciences,” she said, “social work PhD students can get caught up in the research realm and neglect their career planning and professional development. In addition to receiving training in leadership skills, SALT fellows are guided through the process of creating professional plans with action steps and a timeline to get us where we want to be.”

Laura noted that it is validating for social work that NYAS considers the profession a STEM field. “They recognize that we do research using scientific methods,” she said. “In fact, in my specialty of health disparities, we are measuring sub-categories of people other fields don’t study in the same way. We are getting to pockets of the population that other fields often miss out on.” Laura added that NYU Silver’s PhD program emphasizes that social work is a science and provides a membership in NYAS for each of its students.

Professor and PhD Program Director Wen-Jui Han explained, "The PhD Program at NYU Silver endorses and emphasizes the importance of multi- and inter-disciplinary training as we nurture our students to become independent scholars with critical thinking ability. Laura is a great exemplar for our program."

In addition to pursuing her studies, Laura is President of the School’s Doctoral Student Association, serves on the School’s Social Justice Praxis Committee, and works as a Senior Research Scientist on Associate Professor Jennifer Manuel’s NIDA-funded project to adapt and pilot test Critical Time Intervention to assist people in long-term residential substance abuse treatment transition back into the community. While not a study of health disparities per se, Laura said, health disparities are prevalent in substance use and co-occurring disorders, and her experience on Dr. Manuel’s project has been invaluable to her development as a participatory action researcher.

Dr. Manuel, who enthusiastically supported Laura’s nomination for the fellowship, said “Laura brings tireless optimism, curiosity, and energy to the action research project we share. She is a stellar developing intervention and services researcher with exceptional instinct, intelligence, resourcefulness, and depth as well as range of knowledge. The training provided by the SALT fellowship will contribute greatly to her professional development and leadership as a researcher and independent scholar.”