STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—skills have become increasingly valuable, and careers in STEM are among the fastest-growing and highest-paying. Yet Latinas only account for 3 percent of the industry. Meet two young professionals who are making their mark in their STEM careers, leading the way for other Latinas to enter into these much-needed, highly paid fields.
Meet Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. At just 23 years old, Pasterski had a job offer from NASA. Stephen Hawking cited her research. And she built her own single-engine airplane from a kit in her garage when she was 14. Once it was certified as airworthy, she took it for a spin, becoming the youngest person in history, at age 16, to build and fly her own plane. That same year, she was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Photo caption: Honoree and physicist Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski speaks onstage during the Marie Claire Young Women’s Honors presented by Clinique at Marina del Rey Marriott. RICH POLK/GETTY IMAGES FOR YOUNG WOMEN’S HONORS
Now, at 24 years old, she has a standing job offer from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Pasterski, a Harvard PhD student, researches black holes, spacetime, and quantum gravity. Her Harvard peers have characterized her as the “Next Einstein.”
“Be optimistic about what you believe you can do,” Pasterski said in an interview with Marie Claire. In 2013, she was the first woman in two decades to graduate from MIT at the top of her physics class. “When you’re little, you say a lot of things about what you’ll do or be when you’re older—I think it’s important not to lose sight of those dreams.”
Learn more about Pasterski and STEM at physicsgirl.com.
Meet Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernadez Hammer is a sea-level researcher and environmental justice activist who is educating and mobilizing the Latino community to understand and address the ways in which climate change negatively impacts them. This Guatemalan-Cuban advocate speaks from personal experience as well as academic knowledge. When Hernandez Hammer was four years old, she and her family moved from Guatemala to South Florida. There, she learned firsthand about the effect of rising sea levels. Photo caption: Nicole Hernandez Hammer attends the Build series ‘Smart Girls’ panel at Build Studio. JIM SPELLMAN/WIREIMAGE/GETTY
During Hurricane Andrew, when Hernandez Hammer was 15 years old, her house—much like the homes of other Latino families near coastal shore lines—was destroyed. She felt “obligated” to learn more about the issue, and went on to study biology and the natural sciences.
Hernandez Hammer was the assistant director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, authoring several papers on sea
level rise projections, before moving into advocacy. She served as the Florida field manager for Moms Clean Air Force and is now a climate science and community advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In 2015, she was former first lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union Address.