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Mar 06

Latinas Leading By Example: Veronica Gonzalez

Veronica Gonzalez

Pharmacology and toxicology researcher,

Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona

The world of science and technology is one full of amazing discoveries and fascinating new technologies. It is an ever-changing world in which the players are constantly challenging the limits of knowledge and redefining our future. As new problems arise in our society, scientists work to develop new technologies to solve or prevent those problems. However, the scientific community has many blind spots. Problems and potential solutions escape our minds because of our limited experiences. This is why people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives are essential to our scientific and technologic advancement. In my case, as the daughter of migrant farm workers, I am very conscious of the environmental injustice that many Latino farm workers experience. This is why, as a scientist, I am determined to elucidate how the exposure to certain agricultural pesticides predisposes farm workers and their families to some types of cancers, developmental abnormalities, and infertility. Unfortunately, while Hispanics represent over 17 percent of the total U.S. population, only 7.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and technology fields go to Latinos (National Science Foundation: Science and Engineering Statistics. May 2008).

The concerns, perspectives and solutions we can contribute to our own problems will continue to be blind spots of the scientific community unless we become the scientists that care, understand and work to solve the problems afflicting our communities. The good news is that there are many programs such as the McNair Achievement Program, the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC), and the NASA MUST program that do an excellent job in helping Latino students to successfully complete their education. As Latina women, we represent a minority of a minority in science. As a result, a number of additional grants and scholarships for which we are eligible are waiting for us. Instead of lamenting the disparity of Latinos in science, let’s make history; let’s seize the present opportunities, get as much education as we can get, and be the leaders in science that we can be.

Veronica Gonzalez’s first job in the U.S. was as a hotel housekeeper, but she knew she didn’t want to clean toilets for the rest of her life. She enrolled at Pima Community College, took ESL classes, started working at the college’s biology and chemistry labs and immediately knew she wanted to dedicate her life to science and research. She is a pharmacology and toxicology researcher and about to complete her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona.

This article appears in the March 2010 issue of Latino Perspectives Magazine.

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