In Helping His Dad With Diabetes, Young Mexican Chemist Pioneers Healthy—and Cheap—Sugar Substitute

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Javier Larragoiti and team working in the Xilinat lab

When 18-year old Javier Larragoiti was told his father had been diagnosed with diabetes, the young man, who had just started studying chemical engineering at college in Mexico City, decided to dedicate his studies to finding a safe, sugar-alternative for his father.

“My dad tried to use stevia and sucralose, just hated the taste, and kept cheating on his diet,” Larragoiti told The Guardian. Stevia and sucralose are both popular sugar alternatives, and many reduced-sugar products available today contain one or the other.

With stevia and sucralose out of the picture, the young chemist needed to keep searching. He started dabbling with xylitol, a sweet-tasting alcohol found in birch wood but also in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is used in sugar-free products such as chewing gum and also in children’s medicine, but is toxic to dogs even in small amounts.

“It has so many good properties for human health, and the same flavor as sugar, but the problem was that producing it was so expensive,” said Larragoiti. “So I decided to start working on a cheaper process to make it accessible to everyone.”

Xylitol Made Cheaper

Corn is Mexico’s largest agricultural crop, and Javier has now patented a method of extracting xylitol from discarded corn cobs. Best of all, with 28 million metric tons of corn cobs generated every year in Mexico as waste, there’s no shortage of xylitol-generating fuel.

Simultaneously, Larragoiti hit on the idea of how to make xylitol less expensive, while inventing a way to reuse the 28 million tons of corn cobs, substantially upgrading the traditional means of disposal: burning them.

Especially in a pollution-heavy country like Mexico, reducing the amount of corn waste burned, would eliminate a portion of the carbon emissions.

His business, Xilinat, buys waste from 13 local farmers, producing 1 ton of the product each year. His invention was awarded a prestigious $310,000 Chivas Venture prize award, which will enable him to industrialize his operation and scale up production 10-fold, diverting another 10 tons of corn cob from the furnace.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Trailblazing Latina CEO Nina Vaca sees diversity, equity, and inclusion in business as the foundation for a better America

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Nina Vaca dressed in blue business dress smiles while casually leaning on table

Nina Vaca’s journey from Ecuadorian immigrant to transformative tech entrepreneur is the kind of story that is part of America’s rich social and economic tapestry.

Even more so, Vaca knows that continuing her legacy includes paying her success forward to a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, particularly women of color. Vaca, one of the headliners in the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference March 30-31, has made a significant impact as a global business leader and philanthropist since founding and leading Pinnacle Group in 1996.

Vaca, who will make her second consecutive appearance at the conference, this time as an emcee, says she wants to ensure that her success highlights the importance of immigrants to America’s success.

“As a Latina entrepreneur, I am living proof of the ways that immigrants can make positive contributions to this country,” she says. “I’ve been blessed many times to be the first Latina at the table, but I don’t want to be the only Latina.”

That’s why Vaca takes opportunities like the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference, a national gathering of CEOs, academics and other thought leaders, to speak to a new generation of leaders.

“I believe that true success is opening doors for others and expanding opportunities for all women and minorities,” she says. “I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to invest in people and what motivates me is helping the next generation to reach even greater heights than we ever dreamed.”

Vaca says she realizes now that she could have relied more on the support of fellow women entrepreneurs when she started Pinnacle Group. Now, as the head of a company named America’s fastest growing woman-owned business from 2015-18, she says she is in a better position to appreciate how far she has come.

“Early on, I wish I had known that as an entrepreneurial woman, I was not alone,” Vaca says. “It is just a fact that there will always be challenges, but you can’t let these things derail you, instead the struggle must be your teacher as you learn to persevere. It is at your hardest moments that you find your inner strength and where we learn to bend, but not break.”

That resilience is why Vaca says she thinks Philadelphia is such a strong location for a national conference on diversity, equity, and inclusion. At a time when companies are increasingly trying to figure out best practices in hiring and retaining workers of diverse backgrounds, Vaca says the city sets the tone for creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion across all sectors.

“As a business leader, I have seen firsthand how diversity and inclusion fosters a more creative and innovative workforce,” she says. “When everybody has the opportunity to bring their best self to this country, we all help create a better America.

“I think this conference serves as an example for other cities searching for ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own communities,” she adds. “There is something poetic about being in Philadelphia, which played such an instrumental role in the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and bringing great minds together to navigate a path towards upholding the promise of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

With a rapidly growing Latino population, Philadelphia is becoming home to a growing number of entrepreneurs of color, especially among immigrants. Vaca says the city can incubate the growth of minority and women-owned businesses, and invest in social entrepreneurship as a way of sustaining equitable growth. She adds that the presence of diverse industries also helps to create an ecosystem that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The cities that attract diverse entrepreneurs all have these best practices in common: they actively recruit industry leading corporations; they create infrastructures that are friendly to business; they foster a culture of technology and innovation; and they create collaborations between businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and the centers for arts and culture,” she says. “These partnerships are incredibly important to contributing to the economic development that fuels entrepreneurial ventures. That is why it is important for corporations to be intentional with their investment and impact in order to lay a foundation that encourages the next generation of entrepreneurs to stay in or come to a city to work, live, and innovate.”

Vaca cites Comcast as an example of a Philadelphia-based company that invests in a diverse workforce, noting it has “built a best-in-class diversity and inclusion framework that is measurable and accountable.” She adds that the city’s success can be emulated across the country.

“Any city can transform itself into a hub if it is willing to adapt and look toward the future for ways to offer opportunities to both your best and brightest residents and those looking for a place to grow,” she says.

For more information about the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference, and to register, visit diphilly.com

9 Non-Clinical Healthcare Careers to Consider

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Closeup portrait, young healthcare professional in white lab coat standing beside microscope, smiling

By Ashley Brooks

It’s hard to ignore the healthcare field if you’re searching for a stable career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the healthcare field is expected to add 2.4 million new jobs from 2016 to 2026—which is more than any other occupational group!

There’s no denying that there are plenty of opportunities waiting for you in healthcare. But what if you don’t see yourself working in direct patient care? Luckily you don’t have to work in a clinical setting to take advantage of a career in the booming healthcare industry.

The healthcare field revolves around caring for people, but it takes more than just doctors and nurses to make it happen. High-quality healthcare gets plenty of support from non-clinical workers who take care of administrative tasks, coordinate care efforts, manage technology and more.

These non-clinical healthcare occupations are a valued part of the medical field and play an important part in keeping the healthcare industry running smoothly. Explore these non-clinical healthcare career descriptions to find the one that’s the best fit for you.

  1. Medical coder

In a sense, medical coders are the translators of the healthcare industry. They convert patients’ medical records and physicians’ notes into specially designed codes so insurance companies can accurately bill for the services patients receive. Because these healthcare professionals have access to sensitive patient information, they also need to be well-versed in government regulations surrounding healthcare privacy and electronic health records.

This role may sound simple, but it keeps a healthcare provider’s financial records in tip-top shape.

  1. Health information technician

Technology is changing the way the healthcare industry works, especially where electronic health records (EHRs) are involved. Health information technicians (HITs) ensure that a patient’s EHRs are accurate and secure. They also analyze data on patient outcomes.

Like medical coders, HIT professionals are expected to stay current with regulations about patient privacy.

  1. Healthcare manager

Healthcare managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a medical department. They set and monitor budgets, train new staff members to their team and look for ways to increase efficiency and quality of care.

Healthcare managers set the tone for their department and their team, so their leadership influences every patient who walks through a facility’s doors.

  1. Medical administrative assistants

Medical administrative assistants, sometimes called medical secretaries, are often the smiling faces you see when you first enter a medical facility. These administrative experts greet patients and provide customer service, schedule appointments, enter insurance information and work with patient billing.

Medical administrative assistants keep a healthcare facility running smoothly behind the scenes, and they make patients feel welcome and cared for.

  1. Healthcare administrator

Healthcare administrators are the leaders of their medical facility. They set financial goals for their facility, create policies that benefit patient care and ensure that their facility stays in compliance with healthcare regulations.

Healthcare administrators might seem far removed from patient care, but their work directly impacts the quality of care a facility is able to provide.

  1. Community health worker

Community health workers focus on improving the well-being of the people in a particular area or region. Their tasks include educating community members on important health issues, reaching out to at-risk populations to improve their health and assisting with disaster preparedness. These healthcare workers are in the unique position to impact individuals’ general well-being on a large scale.

  1. Human service assistants

Human service assistants work with patients to help them arrange the medical care and other services they need. Their work varies depending on the population they serve. Human service assistants who focus on the elderly might help patients arrange transportation to the doctor, set up a meal delivery service or navigate Medicare. Those who work with people with disabilities might help them arrange personal care services or find a job that accommodates their disability.

Human service assistants spend their days making it easier for patients to navigate a complex healthcare system so they can live their lives to the fullest.

  1. Corporate wellness coordinator

Corporate wellness coordinators work at the intersection of healthcare and business. These healthcare pros bring wellness programs to corporations to help their employees improve their overall health—which in turn gives a boost to the company’s bottom line. They often run fitness initiatives and evaluate individuals for health risks.

This healthcare career puts the spotlight on wellness so individuals can be aware of their risk factors and take control of their health.

  1. Patient advocate

It can be easy for patients to feel overwhelmed in a medical setting, especially if they’re experiencing health issues. Patient advocates help bridge this gap by explaining medical terms and procedures to patients, ensuring they have access to the treatments they need and helping them understand their treatment plan. Patient advocates also communicate a patient’s concerns to doctors or nurses.

Patient advocates dedicate themselves to making sure patients feel heard. They’re the ones patients can turn to if they need support and aren’t sure what to do.

Source: rasmussen.edu/degrees/health

2019 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Convention

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SHPE Logo

Join the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) for their 2019 National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona from October 30 – November 3. Attend the largest gathering of Hispanics in STEM!

This annual event brings together the largest number of Hispanic STEM professionals in the U.S. The theme for this year’s convention is “The Power of Transformation,” celebrating the evolution of SHPE, the empowerment of its members, and the elevation of Hispanics in STEM.

Enjoy a career fair with 275+ top companies & graduate schools, professional networking opportunities, educational sessions with leading experts and world class speakers from Fortune 500 companies.

SHPE changes lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support and development.

There are multiple conferences available from which to choose, so pick the sessions that are right for you! Pre-College, Academic, Professionals, SHPEtinas, Technology & Innovation.

Curious to see more about what goes on at the largest gathering of Hispanics in STEM? Check out the highlight reel from our 2018 convention in Cleveland, OH.

A special thank you to Visionary Sponsor – Honeywell!

For more information please visit SHPE2019.ORG and be sure to follow the hashtag #SHPE2019 on social media for the latest convention news!

Eva Longoria Honored With Beacon Award At 13th Annual ADCOLOR Awards Ceremony In Los Angeles

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Eva Longoria accepts Beacon Award onstage

Each year, the ADCOLOR Awards ceremony recognizes individuals making strides in the fields of marketing, advertising, public relations, media and entertainment, in diversity and inclusion.

For its 13th annual celebration—hosted by New York Times best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi and presented by Facebook, Google, YouTube, Microsoft and Omnicom Group—honored philanthropist, actress, producer and director of UnbeliEVAble Entertainment (and Haute Living cover star), Eva Longoria, among others.

Each of the nominees and honorees are carefully and thoughtfully chosen from a large pool of change makers in each of their respective industries. The winner in each category is the one who represents ADCOLOR’s motto best, which is “Rise Up and Reach Back.” They are honored not just for the accomplishments in their own careers, but also how they are able to give back to their community. The organization’s goal is to “create a network of diverse professionals to encourage and celebrate one another.”

There is no better honoree to set the tone of Adweek’s inaugural Beacon Award than Eva Longoria,” said Lisa Granatstein, Editor, SVP, Programming, Adweek. “From her formidable seven-year-old Eva Longoria Foundation that empowers Latinas via STEM education and entrepreneurship to her leadership role calling for diversity in Hollywood, Eva’s remarkable accomplishments are both authentic and action-oriented.”

The inaugural Beacon Award honors talent who uses their celebrity as a catalyst to change the status quo in the quest for diversity and inclusion. In May, ADCOLOR and Adweek partnered on the first Champion awards and celebration recognizing the fearless leaders and rising stars in marketing and media who embody ADCOLOR’s call to “Rise Up. Reach Back.”

Continue on to Haute Living to read the complete article.

Mexican Scientist Creates Biodegradable Plastic Straw From Cactus

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Sandra Ortiz stands in kitchen behind table filled with vaiations of her new plastic

Researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico have created a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the prickly pear cactus.

The new material begins to break down after sitting in the soil for a month and when left in water, it breaks down in a matter of days. Plus, it doesn’t require crude oil like traditional plastics.

“There were some publications that spoke of different materials with which biodegradable plastics could be made, including some plants,” Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, the research professor who developed the material, told Forbes.

“In this case the nopal cactus has certain chemical characteristics with which I thought it could be feasible to obtain a polymer, that if it was combined with some other substances, all of them natural, a non-toxic biodegradable plastic would be obtained. The process is a mixture of compounds whose base is the nopal. It’s totally non-toxic, all the materials we use could be ingested both by animals or humans and they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

This means that even if any of this material made its way into the ocean, it will safely dissolve. It’s estimated that between 1.15 million to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Last month, divers found a plastic KFC bag from the 1970s during an ocean clean-up off the waters off Bulcock Beach in Queensland, Australia and earlier this year, during a dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean – a plastic bag was found.

According to Ortiz, the project was born in a science Fair of the The nopal cactus sitting on table with blender in the backgroundDepartment of Exact Sciences and Engineering, in the chemistry class with industrial engineering students of the career. They began to make some attempts to obtain a plastic using cactus as raw material.

“From that I decided to start a research project in a formal way. Currently in the project collaborate researchers from the University of Guadalajara in conjunction with the University of Valle de Atemajac.”

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Not Only Does This New Clothing Charge Your Phone, It Can Protect You From Viruses and Bacteria

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man wearing a suit being splashed with water

A new addition to your wardrobe may soon help you turn on the lights and music—all while also keeping you dry, clean, and safe from the latest virus that’s going around.

That’s because Purdue University researchers have developed a new fabric innovation that allows wearers to control electronic devices through their clothing.

Purdue University researchers have developed a new fabric innovation that allows wearers to control electronic devices through clothing.

“It is the first time there is a technique capable to transform any existing cloth item or textile into a self-powered e-textile containing sensors, music players or simple illumination displays using simple embroidery without the need for expensive fabrication processes requiring complex steps or expensive equipment,” said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering.

The technology is featured in the July 25 edition of Advanced Functional Materials.

“For the first time, it is possible to fabricate textiles that can protect you from rain, stains, and bacteria while they harvest the energy of the user to power textile-based electronics,” Martinez said. “These self-powered e-textiles also constitute an important advancement in the development of wearable machine-human interfaces, which now can be washed many times in a conventional washing machine without apparent degradation.”

Martinez said the Purdue waterproof, breathable and antibacterial self-powered clothing is based on omniphobic triboelectric nanogenerators (RF-TENGs) – which use simple embroidery and fluorinated molecules to embed small electronic components and turn a piece of clothing into a mechanism for powering devices. The Purdue team says the RF-TENG technology is like having a wearable remote control that also keeps odors, rain, stains and bacteria away from the user.

“While fashion has evolved significantly during the last centuries and has easily adopted recently developed high-performance materials, there are very few examples of clothes on the market that interact with the user,” Martinez said. “Having an interface with a machine that we are constantly wearing sounds like the most convenient approach for a seamless communication with machines and the Internet of Things.”

The technology is being patented through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The researchers are looking for partners to test and commercialize their technology.

Continue on to Purdue University to read the complete article.

9 Reasons You Should Be in Health Care

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hispanic nurse

Healthcare careers can provide the challenge, security, and salary you’re looking for in a role, while also fulfilling your humanitarian side. Read on for nine reasons the healthcare industry can offer you the career of your dreams. The variety of occupations and settings in health care allows those in the field to change their environment without necessarily changing careers.

For instance, medical professionals typically work in doctors’ offices or hospitals, but many also work in laboratories, public health agencies, insurance companies, universities, and other varied settings.

 

  1. Job satisfaction

By and large, healthcare workers are satisfied with their jobs and don’t regret their career choices. For example, an AMN Healthcare survey revealed that 83 percent of registered nurses are satisfied with their career choice.

  1. Job security

While legislation will continue to change the healthcare landscape, the Affordable Care Act has increased the demand for health care, thus leading to the need for more workers in the industry. Likewise, as people age, they typically require more medical care, and America’s Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age by the millions every year.

  1. Positions for all education levels

While doctors still spend several years hitting the books, health care has many other careers that require far less education. In fact, you can find many positions that pay well and don’t require a bachelor’s degree. For instance, to become a surgical technologist, you only need a postsecondary non-degree award, and the job pays $22.68 an hour.

  1. Explosive growth

Jobs in health care are projected to grow 18 percent by 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Here are the expected growth rates for a few of the fastest-growing medical professions:

  • Home health aide – 41 percent
  • Nurse practitioner – 31 percent
  • Physical therapist assistant – 30 percent
  • Dental hygienist – 20 percent
  1. Free schooling

Within the healthcare industry, you can find many programs that repay student loans in exchange for a certain number of years of service. For example, the National Health Service Corps asks medical residents to work for two or three years in an underserved area of the country in a primary care specialty. In exchange, the federal government will then repay as much as $120,000 of participants’ student loans.

  1. Generous salaries

The burgeoning demand for health care has more benefits than just job security – medical careers also pay well. The 2017 median pay for physicians and surgeons is $208,000, while nurse practitioners can make $110,930 per year, according to the BLS. As mentioned before, even healthcare careers that don’t require advanced degrees can still pay a pretty penny.

  1. Flexibility

The flexibility of healthcare careers is especially attractive to job seekers. Geographically, healthcare workers can go almost anywhere they want, provided they have the appropriate licensure. Some programs, like Doctors without Borders, send medical professionals abroad to deliver services where they are needed the most. Similarly, traveling nurses receive assignments all over the United States and receive benefits, such as relocation and housing allowances.

  1. Variety

The variety of occupations and settings in health care allows those in the field to change their environment without necessarily changing careers. For instance, medical professionals typically work in doctors’ offices or hospitals, but many also work in laboratories, public health agencies, insurance companies, universities, and other varied settings.

  1. The chance to make a difference

Although jobs in the medical field can be stressful because lives are often at stake, the profession is unquestionably rewarding. Healthcare professionals are desperately needed, and they use their education and training to better people’s lives.

Source: careerbuilder.com

Cmd-It Announces 2019 Richard A. Tapia Award Winner Cristina Villalobos

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Cristina Villalobos, Tapia award winner, poses in a gray blazer and red blouse

CMD-IT recently announced the recipient of The Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing is Cristina Villalobos, the Myles and Sylvia Aaronson Professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education.

The Richard A. Tapia Award is given annually to an individual who is a distinguished computational or computer scientist or computer engineer and who is making significant contributions to civic areas such as teaching, mentoring, advising, and building and serving communities. The individual is also one who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in increasing the participation of groups who are underrepresented in the sciences.

“Cristina Villalobos is a leading mathematician in the fields of optimization, optimal control and modelling,” said Valerie Taylor, CMD-IT CEO and President.  “Throughout her career she has significantly impacted different applications areas through her research in optimization; impacting areas such as the treatment of eye disease and the design of antennas.  In addition, Cristina has focused on strengthening STEM academic programs, providing resources for the academic and professional development of students and faculty, and increasing the number of underrepresented students attaining STEM degrees.  She has been a leader in student mentoring, increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing PhD’s in mathematics.”

The Richard A. Tapia award will be presented at the 2019 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. Themed “Diversity: Building a Stronger Future,” the Tapia Conference will be held September 18-21, in San Diego, California.  The Tapia Conference is the premier venue to bring together students, faculty, researchers and professionals from all backgrounds and ethnicities in computing to promote and celebrate diversity in computing. The Tapia Conference is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT).

The Tapia conference sponsors include Diamond Sponsor Qualcomm, Platinum Sponsors Caltech, Cornell Computing and Information Science, Georgia Tech, JP Morgan Chase & Co, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Rice University, Stanford University Computer Science, STARS Computing Corps, Two Sigma, University of California Berkeley, University of California San Diego Science and Engineering Department, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and University of Michigan. Gold Sponsors include Atlassian, Blendoor, Capital One, Cisco, CRA, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Google, Harvey Mudd College, Kennesaw State University, University of Maryland, College Park, University of North Carolina Charlotte and Virginia Tech. Gold Government Supporters include Argonne National Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

The early bird pricing for the Tapia Conference ends July 8th. For more information and to register for the Tapia Conference, visit tapiaconference.org.

About CMD-IT

The vision of CMD-IT is to contribute to the national need for an effective workforce in computing and IT through inclusive programs and initiatives focused on minorities and people with disabilities. CMD-IT’s vision is accomplished through its mission to ensure that underrepresented groups are fully engaged in computing and IT, and to promote innovation that enriches, enhances and enables underrepresented communities. For more information, please visit cmd-it.org.

Inspiring Young Girls to Believe

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Zaida Hernadez poses in an outdoor setting

Zaida Hernandez-Irisson is an engineer and a mentor. A senior at Milwaukee School of Engineering, Zaida also works in the engineering department at FISCHER USA.

She’s the first in her family to attend college, and she’s now involved in several programs that allow her to mentor young girls interested in engineering. She wants to help them believe in themselves, to succeed. The obstacles she overcame in her own life to become an engineer make her uniquely positioned to help others break through such barriers as language, financial issues, or the difficulty of the field.

Zaida began her engineering education at Gateway Technical College, where she earned her associates degree in both biomedical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology. During her time there, she was named the Student Star Ambassador and Ambassador to the Wisconsin Technical College System, giving her the opportunity to share her story of perseverance.

And Zaida shared some of her story with Diversity in STEAM Magazine, when we asked her about her journey to becoming an engineer.

What made you pursue electrical engineering?

Desire to help people is one of the most influential reasons for me pursuing engineering. After realizing in high school that my original interest in the medical field was not for me, I started to look into fields that could allow me to better fulfil my calling. After stumbling across an aptitude test, I found out engineering was a possibility for me. Learning how engineers help communities through the betterment of communication, transportation, medical instrumentation, and day-to-day devices really confirmed that engineering was the path I wanted to pursue.

What do you love most about your job?

Upon graduating from Gateway Technical College, an international company, FISCHER USA, Inc., hired me to join the engineering department. I was very fortunate to find such an amazing company. Knowing that I wanted to continue my education, I found the support, flexibility, and mentorship I needed within the company. I love that our engineering team is very positive and energetic. We all work on projects together and get to grow as engineers together. Being accepted for who I am encouraged me to purse my passion, and having the ability to grow is what makes me love my job.

What advice would you give others who want to pursue engineering?

I tell students, if engineering is truly their passion, not to let anything get in their way of their education. Even though engineering is a very demanding field of study, the reward of helping others by improving technology outweighs other sacrifices. If you’re in a situation where you’re not sure how to achieve your goal, don’t be afraid to knock on doors and ask for help.

What is the most important thing you learned about your career?

The most important thing I’ve learned about my career is that my opportunities in the field are endless. I used to believe that when I became an electrical engineer I would stay strictly within that focus of engineering. It took me a while to realize that all engineers are problem solvers and that our critical thinking skills plus our educational knowledge can take us in different career paths other than just what is on our degrees.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had is not losing my confidence and myself. My educational journey has not been a traditional one. Coming from an immigrant family, I had the support from my parents to go to college but no financial means to achieve it. A four-year institution was very far from my reach right after high school. I started at Gateway Technical College as an English Language Learner student to improve my English. Soon after, I showed up to my first engineering lecture at the same college with nothing but the desire to succeed and the dictionary definition of what engineering was. Being in a male-dominated field of study was hard, and it was even harder when most of my peers had engineering experience from high school or their hobbies, and I had none. It took a lot of sleepless nights and mentors to graduate with a dual degree in biomedical engineering and electrical engineering technology. Soon after I transferred to the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I am wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. At the beginning, I kept to myself a lot—as a Latina student, I tried to blend in with the class and not bring attention to myself. I started to lose touch with my authentic self. It wasn’t until one of my professors took me under his wing that I started to understand that being different was a good thing. That showcasing who I was could inspire girls who are like me to pursue engineering. That was the turning point of my career and the beginning of my work in the community.

Zaida has served as a chapter president for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) for three years and is the former Ms. Mexican Fiesta Ambassador, where her she used her platform to spread awareness of STEM fields. As a first-generation immigrant college student, Zaida understands the barriers nontraditional engineering students have to face. For this reason, she plans on continuing to support the Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation by promoting higher education among our community.

From Refugee Camp to Medical School

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Samixchha Raut is standing outside on a lawn in front of a tree with black and white checkered coulats and black top

By Samixchha Raut

Eight years ago, I lived in Goldhap, a refugee camp in Nepal, where more than 7,000 people reside in just over 1200 households, without running water or electricity. Today, I’m 22, a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology, majoring in Biomedical Science and on a path to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. I am studying for the MCAT exam to apply for medical school. It has been a long journey for me and my family.

My dad, a native of Bhutan, fled the homeland with his family. He settled in Goldhap, where he did construction work in a surrounding town, and later started repairing bicycles. He met my mother; they married and had me, and my two younger brothers. But there was barely enough food to go around.

In 2010, my family was able to immigrate to the United States, where we settled in Raleigh, North Carolina. I studied hard and earned a full scholarship to Rochester Institute of Technology. In spring 2018, I participated in a study abroad program with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). I spent six weeks in each of three locations – studying HIV/Aids Policy & Politics in Cape Town, Media, Gender & Identity in London, and Family and Child Development in Paris. The experience reinforced my commitment to be a doctor!

As a child, I was stricken with jaundice, and it wasn’t sure that I would survive. My parents worked extra hard and were finally able to purchase the medicine that made me better. Once I recuperated, I decided I wanted to be a doctor to help others.

While studying in South Africa, my class visited a township village, Zwelethemba. I felt like I was back in the refugee camp. The people were living in severe poverty. But you could see and feel the camaraderie and love among the villagers. Every child was being raised by the entire village. I pictured myself in them.

It took me back to our camp and to our struggles. I spent 13 years of my life in a refugee camp, living just like these people, and then suddenly, there was I among them as a scholar. It reaffirmed that I am on the right path. It’s important for me to become a doctor and pursue my passion of helping underserved people by providing them with adequate health care.

The study abroad experience was so valuable because I know if I’m to become a doctor and work with a diverse population of people, then I need to experience diversity. This exposure has boosted my motivation to work hard and give back to the community.

Continue on to Hudson Valley Press to read the complete article.