In order to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the SWE Latinos Affinity Group would like to share the experiences of Latinas in STEM. All month long, we will feature Latina and Hispanic women who are STEM professionals that showcase SWEs values for furthering the involvement of women and girls in STEM. Keep reading to meet some of these phenomenal women!
Introduce yourself and tell us about your educational and professional experiences — feel free to include both STEM and non-STEM related endeavors!
RRM: My name is Roselin Rosario-Meléndez and I am a Chemist, Inventor and Women in STEM Advocate with a background in multiple STEM fields. I was born and raised in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, a small town in the center of the island. I got my B.S. in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey and my Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from Rutgers University Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in New Jersey. For my graduate work I developed new biomaterials for drug delivery applications and is when I became an inventor in multiple patents. After earning my PhD, I worked for an ingredient supplier company for 2 years and in a cosmetics company for 6 years. As a cosmetic chemist I formulated extreme wear makeup, for my work I was able to get 37 patent applications globally and see multiple of my formulas in the market. I am passionate about mentoring and helping those like me that do not have family to guide them through school or professional life. As an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador I work to inspire the next generation of minds to pursue careers in STEM.
When did your interest in STEM begin, and how did you nurture it?
RRM: While in school, I had little exposure to STEM but I always loved science and math. In high school, I truly enjoyed chemistry and decided to pursue it as her major in college with the plan of becoming a dentist. I think I had a late start in STEM, as an undergraduate I did research at Texas A&M University and at Merck. Once I worked on my first research experiments in sophomore year, I realized my real passion and immediately scratched off the idea of dentistry. Working in a lab and trying to find answers to fundamental questions was incredibly rewarding to me.
What challenges have you faced as a double minority (woman and Latinx) to get where you are today?
RRM: A big challenge for me is being the only one. In many instances I find myself being the only Latina woman in the mix. This is hard because there is no support system that understands you and helps you navigate through challenges. It is also hard because I feel I have to perform well not only for myself but for all other Latinas, to make sure they would get similar opportunities in the future. I feel like if I do something wrong it would reflect on every Latinx. I had to go out of my way to find mentors and to over perform to give a good name to the people I represent.
In what ways have you used your role as a woman in STEM to encourage young women and girls into STEM?
RRM: I use my social media platforms to highlight my work and the work of other women in STEM. I hope that by doing so, I inspire and encourage girls and young women to pursue careers in STEM. I also dedicate time to mentor girls one-on-one or in small groups to help them navigate their careers in STEM.
What has been your biggest lesson, whether it’s technical or personal, as a woman in STEM?
RRM: One important lesson I learned as a woman in STEM is to advocate for myself. With time I learned that talking about my achievements is not bragging, it is making sure they are known. No one would ever prioritize my career more than I can do myself.
What is something you’re proud of related to your education, career, or community involvement?
RRM: I am very proud of all my achievements: education, publications, patents, inventions, and recognitions. I am proud because it took me a lot of effort and sacrifices to achieve every single one of them. I have had to work hard and sometimes harder than others at every step of my career, I can only be proud!
Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self?
RRM: Knowing what I know today I would give this advice to my younger self: It is OK to say no and to challenge ideas that do not align with your core values. You do not have to say yes to everything that is put in front of you. Set boundaries and make sure your hard work is valued, recognized and properly compensated.