Paying it forward in science
“My identity as a Boricua—term for a native of Puerto Rico—is inextricably tied to the natural beauty I experienced during formative childhood years,” said Shersingh Joseph Tumber-Dávila, PhD ’21. “It wasn’t until I moved from the island that I realized how my identity was influenced by my connections to my culture and nature.”
For Tumber-Dávila, growing up in Puerto Rico, exploring the rainforest, and getting lost on his family’s farm instilled a love of the environment. While at the University of New Hampshire, Tumber-Dávila knew graduate school was in his future, but it wasn’t until he participated in Stanford Earth's Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering Program (SURGE) that he could envision himself at a place like Stanford.
“My tenure in the Jackson lab at Stanford Earth has taught me how to think big, develop interesting questions, and find unique solutions,” he said. “The mentorship and training I’ve received from Dr. Jackson and numerous postdoctoral fellows – starting as early as the SURGE program – has been integral to my development as a researcher.”
In his academic career, Tumber-Dávila has prioritized paying forward that mentorship through the same program that brought him to Stanford. Through Tumber-Dávila’s guidance in the SURGE program, Alexis Wilson looked at the distribution of root biomass in the drought vulnerable forests of the Southern Sierra Nevada to understand the effects that soil and root systems properties had on tree health. Now, Wilson is a graduate student in the same department as Tumber-Dávila.
To help support Latinx communities and introduce diverse youth to STEM topics, Tumber-Dávila founded the Pertenecer and Con-Ciencia En Las Américas outreach programs, for which he earned a Diversity Innovation Fund Grant.
“While my identity helped inform my love of nature, the lack of Latinx or other diverse educators informed my desire to pursue a PhD and join the professoriate,” he said.
Following graduation, he will begin a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research program. His appointment focuses on understanding the future of New England forest carbon by examining the long-term, broad impacts of land use, climate change, policy, and their interactions.