10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World

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Nurse's hand holding a syringe giving a vaccination to a patient

By McKinley Corbley

It seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

 

1) U.S. Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

43-year-old vaccine recipient Jennifer Haller, who is also a mother to two teenagers, was all smiles after she told AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic. “This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Free Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine developers in Seattle aren’t the only ones working on potential treatments and cures for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th.

Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook University. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

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 October 5-6, 2020, 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

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.

2019 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Convention

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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.

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.

Get to Know the Scientist of the Year: Dr. Clarise R. Starr

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Dr. Starr poses smiling with a laboratory in the background

Dr. Clarise R. Starr—2018 HENAAC award winner for scientist of the year—is a supervisory biological scientist in the Aeromedical Research Department of the Air Force Research Laboratory, 711th Human Performance Wing, United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

As the Deputy Division Chief, she is responsible for the research portfolios for the division. She leads and performs research in biological surveillance, human performance optimization, and force health protection against biological threats. Dr. Starr also serves as the laboratory director for the biological select agent and toxin research mission.

Dr. Starr discusses her career and offers her words of wisdom.

HISPANIC Network Magazine (HNM): What motivated you to become a microbiologist?

Dr. Clarise Starr (CS): I was always fascinated by the way a virus could mutate and the potential impact of outbreaks on mankind. I read the Hot Zone by Richard Preston and the Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett when I was in college, and I was determined to play some kind of role in preventing the end of the world by these pathogens.

HNM: What advice would you give other women interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

CS: Find good mentors and a good tribe to encourage you, especially when you are frustrated, because the path to a STEM career is not always easy, but it is very well worth it. I have been fortunate to have good mentors from grade school all the way to present day that I can bounce ideas and thoughts off of, and I think that has been part of my success. If you are interested in science, tell your teachers, your Girl Scout leaders, your family, anyone, and ask if they know any scientists whom you can talk to. Talk to as many as you can and then find opportunities to participate in science when you’re in high school, either through science fairs, internships or summer programs if they are available. Science fairs sometimes are judged by people in the community who have a science background, so those are easy networking opportunities. The more people you can talk to about what your interests are, the more insight you can get about types of schooling you need and jobs that are out there that you may never thought required your interests or skill sets.

Looking for a STEM Job? Head to These States

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employees seated at a meeting table with woman pointing to whiteboard

Milken Institute’s 2018 State Technology and Science Index, a biennial assessment of states’ capabilities and competitiveness in a tech-focused economy, ranked the top ten states to pursue a STEM career.

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Colorado
  3. Maryland
  4. California
  5. Utah
  6. Washington
  7. Delaware
  8. Minnesota
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Oregon

“The success stories of states profiled in this year’s index reflect sustained efforts to not only build but to maintain their ecosystem,” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics. “Making the changes that are necessary to perform well on the State Technology and Science Index can contribute to stronger long-term economic performance.”

Massachusetts benefitted from the presence of major research universities, the availability of venture capital, entrepreneurial expertise, and a tech-oriented workforce, according to the report. The state was first in three of the index’s five composite indexes and finished third in another. Massachusetts continues to strengthen its position in tech and science by increasing public funding of neuroscience research, cybersecurity innovation, and startup development.

Utah’s move to fifth was driven by tech-sector employment growth – the fastest in the nation – averaging 4.3 percent annually. The state also had the most university graduates with degrees in science and engineering – 15.4 per 1,000 students. Utah stood out for the success of its universities in spinning research into commercial ventures.

Delaware rose to seventh from tenth, strengthened by an increase in venture capital invested in technology companies. The Legislature authorized a 25 percent tax credit for small companies (those with fewer than 25 employees) engaged in research and development in specific high-tech fields. The state ranks fifth in the number of business startups with 53.4 per 1,000 residents.

The State Technology and Science Index provides a benchmark for policymakers to evaluate their state’s capabilities and formulate strategies for improving STEM education, attracting businesses, and creating jobs in the tech sector. Indices considered in the report include the number of patents issued and doctoral degrees granted in each state.

“Investing in human capital and developing a STEM workforce is crucial for regional economies that want to attract large technology companies and the jobs they bring,” explains Minoli Ratnatunga, Milken Institute’s director of regional economics research.

In addition to the index, the report offers case studies that examine issues such as non-compete contracts that limit employee mobility, along with access to higher education in building a vibrant, adaptable workforce.

Drawing on this data, the report recommends four steps policymakers can take to improve their state’s competitiveness:

Increase scholarships and other financial aid to lower the cost of higher education for in-state students who plan STEM careers.

Better align STEM curriculums to make it easier for students to transfer credits from lower-cost two-year colleges to four-year institutions.

Encourage partnerships between higher-education institutions and private companies to provide students with work experience to improve workforce readiness and job placement.

Make employee noncompete laws less restrictive to encourage a freer exchange of ideas and talent among tech companies.

The index draws on data from government and private sources dating from 2015 to 2017, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, the American Community Survey, and Moody’s Analytics.

Source: milkeninstitute.org