There have been countless Latinos whose contributions have improved the STEM community. Brilliant minds like Mario Molina (Scientist and Chemist who discovered the dangers that chlorofluorocarbons could cause to the ozone layer), Franklin Chang-Díaz (the first Latino astronaut in 1980), Ellen Ochoa (the first Latina who went to space in 1993), and Cecilia Aragon (author of the memoir Flying Free: First Latina Pilot in the U.S. Aerobatic Team) are just a few of the many Latinos whose contributions are still applied in the Science, Technology Engineering, and Math occupations. According to The National Science Foundation, only 20% of Latinos are working in STEM careers in the U.S.
Let’s take a look at a few other Latinos who are continuing to improve STEM.
Laura I. Gomez
Laura I. Gomez is one of the many hard-working Latinas in STEM trying to change the world. She is the founder and CEO of her own technological company Atipica Inc, which Laura mentions on her website, “became an enterprise startup that built the world’s first people analytics platform for diversity”.
Her development with AI and technological systems could be revolutionary. In 2020 she created a project called Proyecto Solace which was meant to be a safe place where Latinos would prioritize their mental health during the pandemic.
Laura has also been encouraging Latinas to get more involved in STEM programs. She does this by volunteering with various organizations related to improving STEM such as Digital NES. She said in an interview with USAToday in 2014, “Tech is not just done by programming, I want to see more girls like me in 20 years.”
Nicole Hernandez Hammer
Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a scientist who studies the impact of climate change, and environmental justice activist who has made it her life mission to help corporations from harming our home’s natural environment.
According to the website Biohabitats in 2012, “she helped residents of South Florida, particularly Latino communities that often receive fewer educational and protective resources than more affluent communities, understand the realities of climate change and what they can do about it. South Florida communities are in a more vulnerable position than most within the United States.”
Nicole explained why it is important that others take action against climate change and support environmental justice in Carnegie.org,“I want to do everything I can to educate, so kids of this generation know we’re working hard to give them a better future, If we are able to prevent the worst effects of climate change, I want my son to know that I was a part of it. And if not, I want him to know we tried really hard.”
Elio Morillo is a system engineer for NASA and was a part of the 2020 space mission to Mars, where he and his team were the first people to launch a helicopter on the planet Mars. Elio shares what that experience was like in an interview with ABCNews on June 5th.
He also wrote a memoir entitled The Boy Who Reached The Stars, where he reflects on his experience working for NASA, as well as the challenges he faced growing up. Elio shared his thoughts on why inclusion is important in STEM, “I think that diversity, equity, and inclusion are key to the overall success of the U.S. Space Program. As the nation diversifies, we need to increase parity so that our workforce represents the overall diverse population. Through diverse thought, there is no challenge big enough that we can’t overcome.”
It amazes me how many Latinos there are who are working towards helping improve our lives in critical areas such as Science, Technical, Engineering, and Math. I believe that the more people who join these projects and develop research the more they will improve our lives and our home. I hope that in years to come the percentage of Latinos working in STEM careers in the U.S. will improve because there are many Latinos will brilliant minds that could shape our future.