Case Study: Beatriz

I identify as Hispanic/Latinx. For me it has been very hard to find my place and identity within STEM research fields, as there isn't always a lot of support for underrepresented groups. It can be hard to get a research position in STEM/engineering for Hispanic/Latinx students. I think there needs to be more support from professors, head researchers, and departments to make sure there are opportunities for people from all backgrounds. I have generally had to go outside of my department to find opportunities for myself.

I am an engineering student at the Crockell School. I would like to work for an international service company in the oil and gas sector, particularly in a lab. Previously I worked in the labs inside the Petroleum and Geosystems (PGE) department. I got interested in enhanced oil recovery research that was taking place at the PGE department. Some of the topics were based on the micro study of oil properties and pore size of rocks.

Through my research I learned a lot about teamwork, deadlines, compromise, accountability, and effort. Science projects in the lab need a lot of hours, and you need to be committed to your research. Once you start you should continue until you get the results and the data needed to make some change. The best research is done towards a greater purpose, and I learned that I will go the extra mile when I am very interested in something. For example, I often stayed over time to finish my work at the lab and complete all my tasks.

My advice for fellow students would be to know that while it is not easy, you should try to experience doing research in a lab in your department. There are meaningful skills to be acquired in this type of environment. Reach out to everyone who is conducting research on topics you like and ask for an opportunity.

Leaders should get to know their students by asking them to share their background and their story with others. Select students based on merits but also take into account their background and life experiences. See how many students with similar characteristics (from a particular underrepresented group for example) are getting opportunities in the lab. Ask the students how they can be supported. Engineering faculty who might have students from underrepresented groups in their classes and labs should support them in their journey to achieve their goals. Become more than their “boss” by providing mentoring and support.