This week’s #WCWinSTEM, is Dr. Silvia Lorena Mazzula, a diversity and mental health expert and the executive director of the Latina Researchers Network!
As compiled by Léolène Carrington, Ph.D.
If you watched the most recent #VanguardSTEM episode, then you remember Dr. Mazzula and her in-depth insights on “Minding our Mental Health” as Women of Color. She gave sage advice on self-care practices and we’re delighted to feature her as this week’s #WCWinSTEM so you can learn more about her journey!
Responses may be edited for content and brevity.
Where did you go to school?
- BA, Biology, The College of New Jersey
- MA, Counseling and Human Services, The College of New Jersey
- MPhil, Philosophy in Counseling Psychology, Columbia University
- PhD, Counseling Psychology, Columbia University
What do you do right now?
Professor of Psychology; Diversity Consultant; Doctoral Pipeline Coach.
What made you choose your STEM discipline in the first place?
I didn’t know about science until high school, or what it meant to be in STEM until well into adulthood. My parents had an 8th-9th-grade level of education. We came from a poor economic background with limited access to resources, opportunities or exposure to professional careers. Growing up, I wanted to become a medical doctor based on what I saw on TV. I learned that I could go to college in my junior year in high-school, not because someone told me I should go, but because peers told me I wouldn’t get into this thing called “college” I had heard them speak of.
I went on to major in biology as an undergraduate. I loved math, and genetics was my favorite subject. After exposure to cadavers, in a human anatomy class during my junior year in a summer pre-med program, I had an instant reaction that medicine was not for me, nor STEM; It just wasn’t what I had imagined.
I wish I knew it was a very narrow view of medicine. But no one told me, and I had no clue. I was lost for a while. I worked for a pharmaceutical company doing research. After about six months in a lab by myself sampling water, I realized that research and lab work was not for me. I wanted to be around people. I wanted to help others on a personal level. Again, narrow view. I decided to return to school for what I had minored in (by accident), psychology.
Fast forward, I am now a professor of psychology. My days consist mostly of doing things that I once thought I didn’t like (research), and helping raise awareness about all the possibilities that are out there so that no young woman or man feels constrained by their limited access to role models, particularly in advanced research careers and STEM.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?
Hold on to your dreams. Find others who have been through it – even if you have to search outside your institution – and pick their brains.
“And if a path has not been paved, create it.”
Do you have any woman of color in STEM sheros? Who and why?
My sheros are the young women who, despite adversity, find it in themselves to rise and open opportunities for others to do the same.
What else are you passionate about?
I am an animal lover. I’ve had cats, dogs and rabbits. Currently, I am a proud owner of a Cane Corse, and a 20-year-old python I got when I was 21 (self-imposed exposure treatment to cure my fear of snakes) 🙂
Why do you think it’s important to highlight women of color in STEM?
I live by the motto that you can’t be what you don’t see.
“Highlighting women of color in STEM allows young women and men to see themselves and to know that if we can, they can, too.”
Are there institutions, groups or organizations you would like to give a shoutout?
Thank you, Dr. Mazzula, for the work you do and your dedication to diversifying academia! We’re honored to have you in our #VanguardSTEM squad!
*All images used with permission from Dr. Silvia Lorena Mazzula.
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