About Us

FLi Sci is an education non-profit hoping to produce more diverse scientists from low-income backgrounds.

Our Story

FLi Sci (short for first-generation/low-income scientists) is an initiative founded by Gabriel Reyes in June 2020 due to the lack of financial support for students in poverty to access, pursue, and engage in scientific opportunities.

This was most salient when founder and Executive Director Gabriel Reyes was a graduate student at Teachers College and realized not just the lack of scientists that grew up in financially scarce environments but also how few resources existed to address this gap in representation. That summer, Gabriel was an intern for The Opportunity Network and created for them a virtual summer research program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — and this is when it became clear that such programs should also be made available to students in areas where access to science is either extremely limited or nonexist entirely.

As a result, FLi Sci aims to build pipelines for high school and college students that are from low-income backgrounds or the first in their families to attend college and set them up for success navigating a scientific career.

Our Mission

To support the scientific development of students that identify as either first-generation and/or low-income by providing opportunities that foster integral skills necessary to pursue science either professionally and/or academically.

Our Vision

FLi Sci envisions a world where this organization no longer exists because mechanisms to enter science are accessible and equitable to everyone — without regard to one’s race, gender, sexuality, and equally important, their socioeconomic status.

Our Team

Gabriel Reyes


Gabriel (he/they) is pursuing a PhD in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at Stanford University as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar. 


Working under the mentorship of Drs. Bruce McCandliss, Jason Yeatman, and Jelena Obradovic, Gabriel will be researching the effects of poverty-related stress on brain development and learning. A Gates Millennium Scholar and proud first-gen/low-income student from Albuquerque, NM, Gabriel graduated with an Sc.B. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Brown University, and earned an M.S. in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia University.

Kurtis Griess
Program Manager

Kurtis (he/him) is an education and non-profit professional with experience in social enterprise, teaching, secondary and higher education administration, grant writing, and program management.


Kurtis (he/him) is an education and non-profit professional with experience in social enterprise, teaching, secondary and higher education administration, grant writing, and program management. He spent the last six years directing two Upward Bound Math and Science programs at New Mexico Tech, serving low income, first generation students in Albuquerque and Socorro, NM to prepare them for postsecondary pursuits. Kurtis earned a BS in Mathematical and Computer Sciences and an MS in International Political Economy from Colorado School of Mines. Kurtis lives for seeing underrepresented students realize their potential and achieve more than they ever thought possible.


Esmeralda Garcia

Qualitative & Quantitative Research Intern

Esmeralda Garcia is currently a Winter Quarter research intern through the Foothill College Science Learning Institute STEM Internship program.

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Hello, my name is Esmeralda Garcia. I am a third year student in Foothill College. I am a psychology major with a background in behaviors. I have worked with children on the autism spectrum as well as disabilities. I mainly focus on redirecting behaviors with aggressive or self injurious tendencies through ABA. I have 4 years of experience under my belt and only furthering my knowledge more through my current studies in psychology. I love this rewarding field with kiddos that have less support and only want to spread awareness of this special group of bright minds. I honestly learn more from them than what they learn from me.

Trisha Nguyen

Qualitative & Quantitative Research Intern

Trisha is currently a Winter Quarter research intern through the Foothill College Science Learning Institute STEM Internship program.


Trisha is a disabled woman of color who has dedicated her academic journey to finding ways to broaden educational opportunities for the disabled community. Under the guidance of Professor Benjamin Stefonik, she studied the effects of placement in segregated vs. integrated educational settings for students with disabilities. She was also named a Research Scholar by Stanford University and was matched with Kang Shen’s lab to work alongside Caitlin Taylor, Ph.D., in neuroscience research. Now, she joins FLi Sci as a research intern, excited to support underrepresented students and grow as a researcher.

Gabriela Cruz

Qualitative & Quantitative Research Intern

Gabriela Cruz is currently a Winter Quarter research intern through the Foothill College Science Learning Institute STEM Internship program.


Gabriela (she/her) is a community college student completing a Public Health Associate’s Degree at Foothill College and has plans of transferring to a four year university. After her second year at Foothill College, Gabriela gained an interest in the injustices and inequalities patients and health care workers face in the health care community. Learning about this motivated Gabriela to pursue a career that would help change this. By pursuing public health, her goal is to find a way to improve the quality of care marginalized communities receive by furthering her education as either a community health care worker or physician assistant.

FLi Sci Advisors

Aaron Cortes Minor

Director of the STEM initiatives, NIU

Aaron Cortes serves as the Director of the STEM initiatives at the Center for College
Access and Success of Northeastern Illinois University. In this capacity,


He directs the TRIO Upward Bound, TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science and 21st Century Community of Learning Centers. Mr. Cortes also supports the development and implementation of STEM/STEAM programming for students, teachers, educators and administrators across the University programs such as GEAR UP, Center Space (Maker Space), Computer Science Department, and Department of Education. In addition to directing outreach programs, Mr. Cortes is also an adjunct professor for the Computer Science department at Northeastern Illinois University.

Mr. Cortes is an advocate of promoting STEM/STEAM education, international access and college readiness for low income and first generation college bound/college-enrolled students. Due to his engagement, he has been a two-term president of the Illinois TRIO association, Past President of the midwest Educational Opportunity Association and a board member of the Council for Opportunity on Education.
In addition, Mr. Cortes also engages in collaborative work with the Chicago Council for Global Affairs Emerging Leaders program, Northwestern’s Center for Excellence in Computer Science Education Fellowship, and , U.S. Department of Agriculture Kika De la Garza Fellowship.

Dr. Rosalía Zárate

Research and Career Consultant

Rosalía C. Zárate, PhD, is a forerunner in issues related to the retention and academic and professional attainment of underrepresented groups.


Through her work, Rosalía aspires to strengthen partnerships between colleges, universities, and the workforce. Rosalía’s expertise in quantitative and qualitative analysis provides a unique lens that encompasses how to understand what is happening both at a larger scale and the mechanisms that constitute distinct organizational structures at a granular level.

 Rosalía’s research explores the obstacles women and pre-professionals from underrepresented backgrounds face throughout their major and career development and provides practical, policy-relevant solutions to catalyze students’ strengths, interests, and career preparation. One of her goals is to increase the number of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related fields by addressing issues of equity and inclusion in such fields.

 Rosalía has presented her research on diversity and inclusion and STEM pathways at various conferences around the country and has assisted in teaching courses on diversity in engineering and statistical methods at Stanford University. Rosalía collaborates with diverse organizations, colleges, and universities, bringing together research and practice in areas addressing college enrollment, digital technology, and access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs and opportunities.

Rosalía has also served as a research consultant for community colleges and the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has served on various organizational boards whose focus is on retaining underrepresented students in STEM. Following her BS in Mathematical Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Rosalía earned her MS in Statistics and PhD in Education at Stanford University. She is currently completing her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Teachers College, Columbia University.