Mikael Guzman Karlsson: Creating a community

Mikael Guzman Karlsson: Creating a community

September 09, 2015
By Jeff Hansen
Meet Mika Guzman Karlsson, an early recruit to the UAB Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program with a passion for mentoring underrepresented students.

After six years at UAB, Mika Guzman Karlsson is beginning to feel that Birmingham is home. Born in Sweden, growing up in La Paz, Bolivia, until age 13, and then moving to Southern California gave him an episodic childhood and the ability to speak his mother’s Swedish and his Bolivian father’s Spanish, as well as English.

Guzman Karlsson embraced the UAB Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program when he was one of the established neuroscience students recruited to create a community to mentor the first class of new Roadmap Scholars who arrived at UAB this summer. As an undergrad at the University of California, Los Angeles, Guzman Karlsson had helped recruit and retain underrepresented students to biomedical sciences.

Mika Guzman Karlsson on starting a SACNAS chapter at UABGuzman Karlsson has finished the first two years of his M.D. degree at UAB and is working on his Ph.D. with J. David Sweatt, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAB Department of Neurobiology. His career coach is David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAB Department of Neurology. “We discuss specific career paths for physician-scientists,” Guzman Karlsson said.

At the NeuroLab Bench courses for the incoming first-year Roadmap Scholars, which met several weeks this summer for two to five hours a day, Guzman Karlsson taught extraction, isolation and manipulation of DNA and RNA, cell culture model systems, and bioinformatics.

“It was an opportunity to participate in teaching and develop my teaching skills,” Guzman Karlsson said. “I also got to know and connect with the younger students.

“A big emphasis of Roadmap Scholars is having a mentoring team,” Guzman Karlsson said, which consists of a formal faculty career coach who is different from a student’s research mentor, but also includes informal mentoring relationships with other Roadmap scholars. “You learn what the resources are, whom to ask for help and how to ask for help.”

At UAB, Guzman Karlsson has started a chapter of the nationwide Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). He has now been succeeded as president of the UAB chapter by Natasha Pacheco, another UAB Roadmap Scholar.

Guzman Karlsson had the task of introducing Roger Nicoll, Ph.D., at the NEURAL Conference this summer, giving the usual information about the speaker’s education, positions and accomplishments.

“I read the list, but I didn’t know the things that went on between the lines,” Guzman Karlsson said of Nicoll’s struggle with dyslexia. “I felt very fortunate to have him share the obstacles that he had to overcome and still has to overcome.”

Learn more about the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program in this feature