- Valeria Souza Saldivar, professor of ecology at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
- Emilia Huerta-Sánchez, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at Brown University
- Monica Medina, professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University
"I was fortunate to have family members with a background in education to serve as role models."
Adriana Briscoe, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, is one of a mere handful of U.S.-born Mexican American scientists in her field. Nationwide, only about 7 percent of STEM workers are Latino.
In 1965, Briscoe’s mother was the sole Spanish-surnamed woman from San Bernardino County, the largest county in the U.S., to graduate from UC Riverside. She became a bilingual teacher who ensured that Briscoe was well-educated. She would take her daughter to the San Bernardino County Museum in the summer, piquing her interest in fossils.
“As a Latina, I was fortunate to have family members with a background in education to serve as role models. Many other Mexican Americans growing up in Colton – which has a school district with 85 percent Hispanic students – were not so privileged,” Briscoe says. “My mother and grandmother both attended Colton High School before me and, like many of its current students, struggled with food insecurity, a challenge that leads some to drop out before graduating.”
Briscoe has never forgotten the influence that her mother and grandmother – also a teacher and the daughter of Mexican immigrants – had on her scientific ambitions. A graduate of Harvard University (Ph.D. in biology) and Stanford University (M.A. and B.A. in philosophy and B.S. in biological sciences), she has gone on to not only produce exhaustive and prolific research on the evolution of butterflies, but also serve as a role model for Latinas interested in STEM. Briscoe’s work has earned her the 2020 University Faculty Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education and the 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science.