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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Academics & Research

Grant awarded to Latina STEM majors for research

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

A $1.3 million federal grant was presented to the University as a way to encourage the education of Latina STEM majors’ research at Hispanic serving institutions. 

The grant bestowed the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to University of Houston researcher Elsa Gonzalez to find elements that promote the success of Latina STEM majors. 

“The goals of the proposed CAREER project are to identify and understand key factors that promote and hinder the success of Latina STEM majors in higher education in Hispanic serving institutions  in Texas,” Gonzalez said.

“(As well as) apply that knowledge to develop and test mentoring interventions to improve retention of Latinas in STEM,” Gonzalez added.

The research project is five years long and students who are participating will be sharing their experiences, as well as being provided mentoring experience, according to Gonzalez.  

“As students participate in this kind of mentoring program, we expect that students be able to apply the skills learned in the mentoring program in future challenging experiences that they might experience in the rest of their undergraduate program as STEM majors and later on in their work experience,” Gonzalez said.

Along with the University, Gonzalez’s research team will also be tracking students at Texas A&M  and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, where all three have at least 25 percent Hispanic undergraduate enrollment.

“The important support of a funding agency (such) as the National Science Foundation meant the recognition of how important our country is supporting underrepresented students in fields like STEM. This message is (clearly) communicated with this grant,” Gonzalez said.

“It is very exciting (to have) the opportunity to continue this project and have the possibility to impact our students and their future and the future of our nation.”

In a press release, Gonzalez said the she found that resilience, culture and family are key factors with Latinas in STEM careers. The study can help identify what strategies students use, and use them to replicate and integrate into policies at higher education institutions around the country.

“The changing demographics of Texas coupled with the vibrant diversity of Greater Houston makes this research even more important for the future of our state,” said UH provost Paula Myrick Short. 

“As opportunities in STEM fields grow every year, we should see an increase in Latinas with careers in STEM who also are assuming leadership roles and positions of influence.”

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