Now Reading
10 Latina Scientists You Should Know

10 Latina Scientists You Should Know

From astrophysics to marine biology, these Latina scientists are changing the face of STEM with groundbreaking discoveries that inspire innovation

By Carina Lindmeier on Adobe Stock
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

For centuries, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have lacked diversity. But that’s rapidly changing, thanks in no small part to the groundbreaking work of Latina scientists.

These brilliant women are pushing the boundaries of knowledge across a wide range of disciplines, from astrophysics to marine biology. Their research is not only changing the face of STEM but also inspiring the next generation of innovators. This list highlights ten exceptional Latina scientists who are leaders in their respective fields and role models for aspiring women scientists everywhere.

1. Gabriela Gonzalez

Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez is a pioneer in gravitational-wave astronomy, breaking through barriers as she progresses her career journey. Part of the revolutionary Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) team, the Argentine played a crucial role in the first-ever detection of gravitational waves in 2015. She was the only woman on the team. Currently, she’s director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, developing next-generation gravitational-wave detectors to unveil even more mysteries of the cosmos and test the limits of Einstein’s theories.

Her vision for the future? Closing the gender gap in science. She argues that this goal begins with dismantling the common myths and misconceptions about physicists, which tend to segregate women from research.

2. Ellen Ochoa

Dr. Ellen Ochoa plays the flute in zero gravity space aboard a NASA spacecraft with books and other objects floating around her on April 17, 1993. Her feet are strapped to the ground.
Photo by NASA

Dr. Ellen Ochoa, a pioneering engineer and astronaut, shattered the glass ceiling in 1993 when she became the first Latina to reach space. This electrical engineer leveraged her expertise on four Space Shuttle missions, even serving as mission commander on one and logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit.  After a long career as an astronaut, Ochoa continued to inspire as the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center—only the second woman to hold the post and the first Hispanic.

Despite retiring from the Johnson Space Center, Ochoa is still a trailblazer to watch, as she became chair of the National Science Board in 2020, which runs the National Science Foundation.

3. María Blasco

Dr. María Blasco, a leading molecular biologist from Spain, is a champion for both scientific discovery and gender equality in STEM. She is a world-renowned expert in telomeres and telomerase, the “caps” on chromosomes that play a role in aging and cancer. Her work covers epigenetics, genome instability, aging delay and treatment, as well as cancer treatment.

Blasco’s research has been published in over 200 scientific articles, and her leadership extends beyond the lab. As director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, Blasco advocates for women in science, calling for changes to empower them as research leaders.

4. Ángela Nieto

Headshot of Dr. Angela Nieto, in front of a gray background. She's smiling with her fingers interlaced, looking off to the side of the camera, wearing a dark blue blazer and white undershirt.
Photo by SEBBM

Dr. Ángela Nieto is a renowned developmental biochemist and professor at the Institute of Neuroscience in San Juan de Alicante, Spain. Her groundbreaking research focuses on the embryonic processes underlying various diseases, such as cancer and birth defects.

In 2022, Nieto’s embryonic development achievements in cancer treatment were recognized with the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science program’s highest honor. She also serves on the Spanish National Research Council.

As someone who always wanted to be a scientist, Nieto revels in the beauty of understanding life and how it works. Looking to the future, she hopes that “gender equality in science will be the norm, with both talented women and men scientists addressing global health and environmental challenges,” she told L’Oréal Group. “Science gives us the freedom to explore with rigor and generosity, meet extraordinary people, and feel part of an international community working for a better world.”

5. Cristina Romera Castillo

Cristina Romera Castillo stands for a picture, smiling, in front of the ocean and a mountain cliffside.
Photo by Institut de Ciències del Mar

A rising star in marine science, Dr. Cristina Romera Castillo is an “International Rising Talent” recipient of the 2020 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award. She also sits on the Spanish National Research Council. Her research on the degradation of marine plastics holds immense promise for tackling global plastic pollution.

Castillo’s work explores how microbes can break down plastics, paving the way for potential bioremediation solutions. A continuous learner, Castillo also enjoys programming and participating in oceanographic labs around the globe.

6. Angélica Anglés

Dr. Angélica Anglés, a NASA planetary scientist, astrobiologist and astrophysicist, is on a mission to search for life on Mars. The Spaniard a leading researcher on Martian surface conditions and the potential for past or present microbial life. Her future endeavors involve analyzing data from upcoming Mars rovers, hoping to unlock the secrets of the Red Planet’s past—and perhaps one day playing the piano on Mars.

Additionally, Harper’s BAZAAR awarded her the title of Visionary Woman in 2020, aimed to recognize and honor high-achieving female leaders with true vision in several different fields.

7. Nicole Hernandez Hammer

Nicole Hernandez Hammer sits in front of some greenery with a soft smile during golden hour.
Photo by Van Alen Institute

Dr. Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a passionate climate scientist and activist. Her research focuses on the devastating effects of sea level rise, particularly on vulnerable communities of color. She previously served as the deputy director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies and is a current climate advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Hernandez Hammer advocates for environmental justice, urging for solutions that address the unequal burden of climate change.

8. Dení Ramírez Macías

Dení Ramirez-Macias snorkels underwater and takes a selfie.
Photo by Dení Ramirez-Macias

Dr. Dení Ramírez Macías, a leading Mexican marine biologist and conservationist, is a champion for whale sharks. Her pioneering research on their migratory patterns and population genetics has informed conservation efforts throughout Mexico, with features on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. As such, Ramírez Macías co-founded Whale Shark Mexico and has directly contributed to the creation of three marine protected areas for these gentle giants.

Her dedication extends beyond science, as she inspires future generations through education and outreach programs.

9. Maria Elena Bottazzi

Professional headshot of Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi at the Texas Children's Hospital.
Photo by Texas Children’s Hospital

Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, a Honduran microbiologist, is a global health champion. She co-created Corbevax, a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine designed for accessibility in developing countries.

She also leads the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine as associate dean, additionally serving as a distinguished professor of biology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Her dedication to global health extends beyond this achievement, as she has spent her career developing vaccines for tropical and emerging diseases. Looking to the future, the Latina scientist urges fellow scientists to understand the importance of disseminating accurate, easy-to-understand information about vaccine safety and vaccine development processes to the public.

10. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski

Dr. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is a rising star in theoretical physics. This Cuban American prodigy made waves with her discovery of the spin memory effect at Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, potentially offering a new path to detect gravitational waves. A first-generation Cuban American and Chicago Public Schools alumna, the physicist wrote a paper on electromagnetic memory, which was lauded by Stephen Hawking and later cited in one of his papers.

Her brilliance extends beyond theory, as she is also a licensed pilot who built and flew her own airplane as a teenager—the youngest to do so at the time! Her groundbreaking research and exceptional talent have earned her recognition as a Forbes 30 Under 30 All-Star and a role model for aspiring scientists around the globe.

What’s next for the rising star? Earning his post doctorate degree from Princeton University.

Two women scientists of color look into their respective microscopes to study material. They are both wearing lab coats and surrounded by various solutions and a document with their notes on it.
By Carina Lindmeier on Adobe Stock

In conclusion, these Latina scientists are paving the way for a brighter future in STEM fields. Their groundbreaking research and unwavering dedication are not only inspiring the next generation of scientists, but also pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. As we celebrate their achievements, let’s also acknowledge the continued need for diversity and inclusion in STEM. By supporting Latina scientists and fostering an environment that welcomes all backgrounds and perspectives, we can unlock even greater scientific breakthroughs in the years to come.

This article was written with the assistance of AI.

Hispanic Executive

© 2021 Guerrero LLC. All rights reserved. Hispanic Executive is a registered trademark of Guerrero LLC.

1500 W Carroll Suite 200
Chicago, IL 60607