Stephanie Garcia, Ph.D. • Learning Goes On • October 14, 2020 Edition

While Hispanic Heritage Month closes on October 15, the importance of culturally relevant pedagogy continues year-round. This month has been a special time to celebrate the cultures and histories of all diverse communities, including identities that intersect with Hispanic heritage.

Hispanic is an ethnicity, but many do not identify as Hispanic. Identity is intersectional, so we should also be inclusive of celebrating the cultures, histories and contributions of Mexican Americans, Chicanos/as, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorians, Hondurans, Latinos/as, Chileans and more.

Identity is not linear, singular or fixed. As we learn more about our heritage and history, we discover a new part of our identity. As Gloria Anzaldúa said, “There is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience.” The same is true for other identities.

Hispanic Heritage in STEM

Since women of color are often overlooked in STEM subjects and grossly underrepresented in the field, IDRA’s STEM and gender equity specialist, Dr. Stephanie Garcia, has been showcasing a STEMinista (Latina in STEM) every day of Hispanic Heritage Month. Below are a few STEMinistas and a brief summary of their contribution in STEM. They are a few of many that serve as an inspiration and trailblazer in STEM.

Born in Puerto Rico, Olga D. González-Sanabria was granted a U.S. patent for her innovation. Her long cycle-life nickel-hydrogen battery helped power the International Space Station. She became the highest-ranking Hispanic at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Frances Córdova earned her Ph.D. in physics from Cal State. She studied white dwarfs and pulsars at Los Alamos National Laboratory, authored more than 150 published articles, became chief scientist for NASA, president of Purdue University, and a director at the National Science Foundation.

Gabriela Mistral, literary pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, was South America’s first Nobel Laureate. Her poems had many themes, but one was nature. She wrote about nature in the Poem of Chile. This is a great example of STEAM (art integrated in STEM).

Ynes Mexia is a famous Mexican American botanist who received her degree at U.C. Berkeley. She discovered two new plant genera and 500 new plant species.

Rebeca Guber is a famous computer scientist from Argentina. She taught at the University of Buenos Aires and co-authored Elements of Differential and Integral Calculus. She also co-developed the first computer in Argentina!

In 1944, Enriqueta González Baz became the first woman to graduate with a math degree in Mexico from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and she co-founded the Mexican Mathematical Society.

Dra. Helen Rodríguez Trías was the first Latina president of American Public Health Association. She brought national attention to the HIV and AIDS crisis and exposed inequities in healthcare. She was also an associate professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Ellen Ochoa is the first and only Hispanic female astronaut. She recently retired from her NASA director position in Houston. She was a mission specialist and a flight engineer, and she conducted robotics development.

These incredible contributions all connect to computer science, biology, mechanical engineering, aerospace and aviation, medicine and literature in STEM. Educators should find creative ways to acknowledge and authentically connect these mujeres pioneras (women pioneers) and their contributions to the STEM curriculum. This work is important because we want our future STEMinistas to see themselves in the field.

Said beautifully by Gloria Anzaldúa: “Do work that matters. Vale la pena.”


Antiracism in Science – Infographic

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, book by Gloria Anzaldúa

11 Women scientists who should be in the Texas K-12 science standards, just to get the ball rolling – Infographic

See more STEMinistas via Dr. Stephanie Garcia’s Twitter account @STEMinistx.