This week’s #WCWinSTEM is Dr. Alicia Prieto Langarica, a mathematician whose research interests are in Mathematical Biology!
As compiled by Léolène Carrington, Ph.D.
We are honored to have Dr. Alicia Prieto Langarica tell us her story as this week’s #WCWinSTEM! A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Dr. Prieto Langarica loves sharing her passion of mathematics with students and enjoys watching them gain a better understand of the subject.
Responses may be edited for content and brevity.
How would you describe yourself in 1 tweet?
Mexican immigrant fighting for social justice with mathematics and education.
Where/when did you go to school?
- B.S., Mathematics, University of Texas at Dallas
- Ph.D., Mathematics, University of Texas at Arlington
What do you do right now?
I am an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Youngstown State University. I do research in the intersection of mathematics and biology, particularly in the medical sciences. Some of the projects I am involved with are: mathematical modeling of bone formation and metabolism, on the relationship between sleep and thermoregulation, prenatal muscle cell formation, infection control on medical implant surfaces, the effect of climate change on animal migration and mathematical modeling of Zika virus epidemics.
What made you choose your STEM discipline in the first place?
I love math and I like to understand how the human body works, so I do research in mathematical biology solving problems in the medical field. When I was in 6th grade, I was in a special class for those struggling with mathematics. There, I discovered mathematics was less about memorizing and more about thinking. I also learned about Mathematics Olympiads. I was a participant in that competition for 5 years, and I won first place in my state 5 times (Jalisco). I was also first place in the country twice. But all through that time, I really enjoyed my biology class and I always wanted to become a medical doctor. After 3 years as an undergraduate in mathematics (in Mexico), thanks to an REU (research experience for undergraduates) at the University of Texas at Dallas, I found out you can do research in mathematical biology and I was sold.
Learning how the body works without the risk of my clumsiness hurting people was just a dream come true.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?
I wish someone would have told me to think about what success is to me and how that is more important than what the world imposes on you.
Do you have any woman of color in STEM sheros? Who and why?
A lot of them!! I grew up believing that women were too competitive to be real friends (and also that math is not for women!). This sub-list of the women of color that I admire are my colleagues and friends and they inspire me every day and help me get through the hard parts of our jobs and personal lives: Dr. Pamela E. Harris, Dr. Selenne Banuelos, Dr. Cynthia Flores, Dr. Malena Espanol, Dr. Minerva Cordero-Epperson, Dr. Shelby Wilson, Dr. Imleda Flores, Dr. Erika Camacho, and Dr. Alejandra Alvarado.
What else are you passionate about?
I love education and sharing my passion for math with students. I run regularly and have started a student’s running club.
Why do you think it’s important to highlight women of color in STEM?
YES!! As I mention before, I was told growing up that women do not do math and that men do not like smart women. And even now, in the U.S. most of my students and colleagues are men.
We need to raise each other up and give each other the spotlight so that we can be well represented in STEM!
As an undergrad in Mexico at the Center for Research in Mathematics (CIMAT), I was one of very few women (we were probably less than 20% of the student population) and many of them were very competitive and in a constant mission to sabotage each other. As a graduate student, things were not so different in that regard either. But, once I graduated I started meeting all this wonderful amazing women in mathematics (and especially women of color) who not only have become my collaborators and friends, but my family away from home. I immigrated to the U.S. alone and all my immediate family still lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. These women have helped me build a community and a family.
I am thankful for Dr. Pamela Harris, Dr. Selenne Banuelos, Dr. Cynthia Flores, Dr. Malena Espanol, Dr. Shelby Wilson, Dr. Imleda Flores, Dr. Minerva Cordero, Dr. Erika Camacho, Dr. Alejandra Alvarado.
Are there institutions, groups or organizations you would like to give a shoutout?
Some of the institutions that have helped me throughout my career are: Sociedad Mexicana de Matematicas, Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanic and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and Latinos in Math.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am really grateful that things like this exists! And I nominated Pamela E. Harris and she nominated me back without me knowing, which just shows how amazing my idols are.
Thank you Dr. Prieto Langarica, for your dedication to empowering students with mathematics and for fighting for social justice using education! We’re honored to have you in our #VanguardSTEM squad!
*All images used with permission from Dr. Alicia Prieto Langarica.
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