Notable Latinos in the STEM Field

By Efrain Nieves, Victoria Cepeda

In 2010, Latinos accounted for 15%  (1.8 million) of the overall college enrollment. But, only 8% of those undergraduates are majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM). Also, Latinos represent only 5% of  the nation’s STEM workforce. 

Top left to bottom right: Guillermo González Camarena, Arnaldo Tamayo-Méndez, Fermín Tangüis, Juan Manuel Taveras

How do we encourage our children to get involved in STEM? Perhaps by introducing  them to Latinos that have distinguished themselves in this field with the hopes to spark their curiosity. As such, let me start with these four notable individuals that have broken barriers. 

Dr. Juan Manuel Taveras – born on September 27, 1919,  in Moca, Dominican Republic. Taveras is widely known as the father of the medical specialty of Neuroradiology. Taveras received medical doctorates from both the University of Santo Domingo in 1943 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1949 and completed a radiology residency at the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, Radiologist-in-Chief Emeritus of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Director of Neuroradiology at the Neurological Institute of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. On April 19, 1962, Taveras found the American Society of Neuroradiology which today has 3,000 physicians as members.

Arnaldo Tamayo-Méndez was born born on January 29, 1942 in Guantánamo, Cuba. Méndez graduated from the Air Force Academy and became a pilot in the Cuban Air Defense Force. On September 18, 1980, he was the first Cuban, first person of African descent and the first person in the western hemisphere besides the United States to travel into space.

Fermín Tangüis  was born on March 29, 1851 in San Juan, Puerto Rico to parents who migrated from France. He was a  businessman, agriculturist and scientist. Tangüis moved to Peru at the age of 22, established his own businesses in Ayacucho and in Huancavelica  and purchased land in Valle de Pisco and built a plantation  of cotton. But in 1901, Peru’s cotton industry suffered from a  fungus disease that left the  country’s industry in crisis.  Tangüis began studying  seeds from various cotton plant species and after 10 years of failed experiments,  he developed a seed, now called  Tangüis Cotton, that resisted the disease; thus saving Peru’s cotton industry.

Guillermo González Camarena  was born on February 17, 1917  in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Camarena  graduated from the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers  at the National Polytechnic Institute in 1930 and became a member of the Astronomical Society of Mexico after building his own telescope.  At the age of 17,  Camarena invented an early color television transmission system and obtained the first color tv patent “Chromoscopic adapter for television equipment” on September 15, 1942. He is also credited with introducing color tv to Mexico.

No one can take away from these men their achievements and contribution to the STEM field in the U.S. Now this is good news!

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