Postdoctoral Fellow Honored for Helping Advance Latinas in Tech Field

A member of a UT research team has been named one of the top researchers in her field by Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology magazine.

Andrea RochaPostdoctoral fellow Andrea Rocha, who works on Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology Terry Hazen’s joint UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory team, was chosen as one of thirty-two women worldwide to be profiled in the magazine’s “Latinas at Tech Giants” edition.

“I wasn’t even aware I was being considered,” said Rocha. “I didn’t know anything about it until I received a letter from the Women of Color STEM Conference that contained a congratulations note, press release on the article, and copy of the magazine which contained my profile.”

Almost as noteworthy, Rocha found out that Astrid Terry—a project manager at the Berkeley Lab at the University of California—had nominated her.

Carried out through UT, ORNL, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Rocha’s work includes biosciences, studies of water and eco quality, and microbiology.

She’s on Hazen’s Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies (ENIGMA) team, which brought her into contact with Astrid Terry.

She also works on groundwater studies, including serving as the lead on a project utilizing bacteria to test for the history of contamination of groundwater.

“As part of my work, I have led the 100-well survey (which sampled 100 wells in the Oak Ridge area) along with field efforts for a number of other projects,” said Rocha. “Currently I am working on a study aimed at determining if and to what extent changes in groundwater geochemistry over time affect the microbial community structure, activity, and genetic diversity.”

Rocha has won numerous honors and awards for her work and currently serves on the American Society for Microbiology’s Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities.

Highlighting researchers like Rocha is important, as the magazine points out, because of some stark Census Bureau figures.

It is estimated that by the time the next generation enters the workforce the population will be 14 percent Hispanic or Latina female, but that same demographic currently makes up only 2 percent of the tech sector.

“It is important that we recognize all leaders in the STEM fields, especially women and minorities,” publisher and CEO Tyrone Taborn said in a statement. “This article serves as a motivational piece for young girls and young women to become more involved in the STEM fields.”

Rocha and the other honorees will be recognized at the Women of Color STEM Conference in Detroit October 15–17.

 

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)