McKnight Fellowship Aids Research on Defining Science Success

Brian Zamarippa Roman

A Physics graduate student is redefining what success looks like with the help of minority academics and the McKnight Dissertation Fellowship.

Brian Zamarripa Roman traces his fascination with the cosmos to childhood, but it was only recently that he noticed the lack of representation in the scientific community — specifically, scientists who looked like him. Zamarripa Roman, who is proud of his Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, came to the realization at a summer research institute.

“As I started learning about privilege disparities and became aware of the lack of Latinx representation in the physics community, the increasingly more unsettled I became,” said Zamarripa Roman. “I then began to explore gender disparities and realized that there is an enormous lack of female voices being heard in what is an already small Latinx community.”

This inspired Zamarripa Roman’s work on the reconceptualization of what success looks like in science. A survey of 20 Latina scientists revealed the traditional benchmarks — published papers, conference invitations, research breakthroughs — were not the only priorities in academia. Zamarripa Roman discovered, for instance, many measures of success had a human, emotional component.

“For example, some people in the sciences feel that success equates to taking care of themselves and their mental health, yet this contradicts the stereotype that you should go through your academic career without taking a break,” Zamarripa Roman said.

The goal of Zamarripa Roman’s research is to both expand the narrow definition of what success looks like in the sciences and bring attention to the lack of representation that Latinas in the physics community face.

“Women in the scientific field are held to high standards,” said Zamarripa Roman. “This, in addition to societal pressures that sit under a screen of minority and gender-based prejudices, can really affect the confidence of these women. We are looking to bridge these gaps in the physics community.”

Zamarripa Roman’s research is supported by the McKnight Dissertation Fellowship, which supports minority doctoral students.

“I feel really proud to have this opportunity because I’ve been able to connect with other scientists that have backgrounds like me, look like me, and make me feel like I belong,” said Zamarripa Roman. “I am very committed to my research and this fellowship will allow me to become even more invested.”



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