NATIVE AMERICAN INDIGENOUS LEADERS
Tannia Lau Mair
Education: BS, biochemistry, New Mexico State University; PhD, molecular, cell, and developmental biology, University of California Santa Cruz Company Name: Eli Lilly and Company Industry: Pharmaceutical Company CEO: David A. Ricks Company Headquarters Location: Indianapolis, Indiana Number of Employees: 34,689 Your Location (if different from above): Santa Cruz, California Words you live by: People are people through other people. Who is your personal hero? My eldest brother, Joe Lau What book are you reading? The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson What was your first job: Selling homemade yeast bread with my grandma Favorite charity: UC Santa Cruz STEM diversity program Interests: Exploring nature, trying different foods, gardening, playing soccer, surfing, watching live music, quality time with friends/family/cat, and creating art. Family: Diné (Navajo). I am of the Naakaii Dine’é (Mexican People) born for the Malaysian People, my maternal grandfather’s clan is Táchii’nii (RedRunning-Into-The-Water Clan) Nát’oh Din’é (Tobacco people), and my paternal grandfather’s clan is Malaysian.
STEM Outreach Programs Changed My Life My goal to build a research career focusing on drug discovery and finding effective therapies for diseases began as a child. These strong desires arose when I was eleven years old as I watched my mother battle stage four lymphoma. This diagnosis came shortly after she was released from three years of imprisonment for charges related to her struggles with alcohol dependence. During her illness, I became curious about the aggressiveness of cancer and why her body could not defeat it. In addition, my maternal Navajo family attempted to aid her with traditional medicinal herbs despite her doctor’s disagreement with the mixture of modern and Navajo treatment. Their disagreement sculpted
2021 Third Quarter
my interest in biology and medicinal chemistry. Unfortunately, I watched her disease progress and finally take her life, as it was untreatable with modern approaches and traditional Navajo medicine. Nevertheless, I persevered through these life-challenging events. I broke through various barriers with the help of inspirational mentors, the assistance of STEM diversity outreach programs, and my natural curiosity and determination to create a better life for myself. I am the first in my family to earn a PhD and pursue my dreams as a research scientist at a world-renowned pharmaceutical company. My ability to recognize hardship, endurance, and preservation gives me diverse views about life and cultures valuable to sci-
entific research and the community. As an industry scientist, I hope to apply my unique experiences to inspire the next generation of diverse disadvantaged STEM students and show them that it is possible to achieve your dreams and find solutions for inevitable problems. STEM outreach programs have taken me beyond the reservation and the rural borderlands of New Mexico to discover a brighter future. They have helped me tremendously to explore my ideas and delve deeper into the world of scientific research. I am eternally grateful for those who put their heart and soul into these programs. They certainly changed my life, and I will continue to be intimately involved with these efforts.