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Capitol Tech Honors Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15, 2021

September 15th through October 15th of 2021 brings us this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate those with Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, and South American heritage. In honor of the holiday, this edition of the Capitology blog will highlight a few individuals with Hispanic heritage that have made invaluable advancements to STEM fields.

Scarlin Hernandez

Scarlin Hernandez describes herself in her biography as a “Dominican Spacecraft Engineer for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope mission at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.”1

Hernandez has played an integral part in the NASA project known as the James Webb Space Telescope, which is meant to act as the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor and will ideally launch in November of this year.

Hernandez works as a member of the Flight Operations Team for the project, continually testing the telescope’s software and code to ensure it will be fully and efficiently controlled by NASA while in orbit.

Beginning her career in aerospace engineering long before the telescope, Hernandez started as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center2. She became a ground system control member for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, and was eventually promoted to be a mission planning lead and system engineer for the project2.

Hernandez even started her own Society of Women Engineers at her university, none other than Capitol Technology University, and to this day continues to recruit and encourage her fellow female engineers.

Césare Lattes

A Brazilian physicist, César Lattes was a winner of two Nobel prizes for his work. He graduated from the University of São Paulo in 1943, and his pursuit of experimental physics at the university led to the discovery of the pion. The pion is, according to writer Manuel Gnida, “a short-lived particle produced when particles from space collide with the Earth’s atmosphere.3

While visiting Bristol, England, Lattes found out he could add boron to emulsion plates, which act similarly to polaroids in their capturing of charged particles3. Not only were these advanced plates able to capture images of the pion, but at higher elevations they were able to confirm the particle’s mass and other special properties3.

Lattes became known as a hero in Brazil, setting the country as a leader and partner in physics across the world. With the low cost of emulsion plates, Brazil was able to share, discuss, and improve their findings with the globe.

Through this research and other studies based off it, Brazil has made decades-long partnerships with other countries, some of which are still standing strong today.

Evangelina Villegas

Born in Mexico City in 1924, Evangelina Villegas was one of few women at the time to go to college, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology at the National Polytechnic Institute, located in Mexico City4.

Her chemistry career started at the National Institute of Nutrition and the Special Studies Office. There, she was placed in charge of investigating protein quality. Villegas and her partner, Surinder Vasal, an official maize breeder, began work to create a more nutritional and efficient breed of maize4.

After years of work, their testing was able to create what is known today as quality protein maize (QPM). This breed proved to be delicious to humans and livestock alike, advancing the growth and health of animals, and subsequently, the people (especially children) who consumed said livestock4.

Villegas’ work helped to solve the malnutrition problem maize-dependent communities faced, earning her the World Food Prize, making her the first woman to receive it4.

These are just a few of the many Hispanic scientists who have made great advancements in the STEM field. Those of the past have made our advanced present, and scientists of the present are working hard to create an even more impressive and knowledgeable future. To learn about more Hispanic STEM, visit sciencebuddies.org.

Capitol Tech offers many programs that lead to careers just like Hernandez, Lattes, and Villegas' in fields like Aviation and Unmanned Systems and Engineering. To learn more about these opportunities, email admissions@captechu.edu.

References

  1. Society of Women Engineers. (2017, September 26). Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Scarlin Hernandez. Retrieved from https://alltogether.swe.org/2017/09/hispanic-heritage-month-spotlight-scarlin-hernandez/. 
  2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2018, August 17). Hispanic Network Magazine Honors NASA Goddard Engineer Scarlin Hernandez. Retrieved from https://blogs.nasa.gov/odeo/2018/08/17/hispanic-network-magazine-honors-nasa-goddard-engineer-scarlin-hernandez/.
  3. Gnida, M. (2019, October 3). The Legacy of Cesar Lattes. Retrieved from https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/the-legacy-of-cesar-lattes.
  4. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. (2015, May 29). SUPER WOMAN: Evangelina Villegas developed transformative quality-protein maize. Retrieved from https://www.cimmyt.org/news/super-woman-evangelina-villegas-developed-transformative-quality-protein-maize/.