MSU earth and environmental sciences doctoral student receives prestigious scholarship

  • Oct 9, 2018
  • STEM fields, secondary education, doctoral student, Award
  • Homepage News, Faculty & Staff, Students, College of Natural Science, EES
Image of Patricia Jaimes
MSU doctoral student Patricia Jaimes was one of only 10 recipients this year to be awarded an El Café del Futuro Scholarship. Courtesy photo.

Patricia Jaimes, a doctoral student in the MSU Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences working in Professor Julie Libarkin's Geocognition Research Lab, received one of only 10 El Café del Futuro Scholarships this year in recognition of her drive to pursue secondary education and her motivation to give back in the face of adversity.

Jaimes’s parents always emphasized the importance of a good education. Between balancing multiple jobs and parenting a child with disabilities, Jaimes achieved an excellent undergraduate degree and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in earth and environmental sciences. Her research focuses on understanding the lack of diversity in the Earth sciences and in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields at large.

In particular, Jaimes notes that current research on increasing diversity in STEM careers focuses almost exclusively on recruiting more students but neglects conversations are how to retain them in these fields. In her research, she explores the resources and assets that underrepresented students utilize to persevere in their scientific careers, resources that are not often recognized or valued by the scientific community but are critical to helping them succeed.

Instead of focusing on what communities that are underrepresented in STEM lack (what she calls a deficit mindset), Jaimes explores how the scientific community needs to change to become more inclusive and accessible for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“By exploring the strengths these students bring to their STEM pursuits and figuring out ways to incorporate those strengths into the scientific community,” said Jaimes, “I hope that my findings will contribute to making the structural and social changes needed within the higher education and STEM communities, so that these spaces become more inclusive for people of all identities and abilities.”

“I have no doubt that Patricia will accomplish her goal of working toward deeper understanding of the complex relationships that feed into the lack of diversity in the earth and environmental sciences,” said Libarkin, Jaimes’s advisor, who nominated her for the award. “Patricia is well positioned to become a leader in the field as well as an exceptional role model for other students from diverse backgrounds.”

“My receipt of this scholarship has helped validate that the work I am doing is important and recognized by my community,” Jaimes said. “This award will allow me to focus more time on completing my research, so my work can become a reality.”

Jaimes is also a University Distinguished Fellow and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Café Bustelo® provides financial support to Hispanic students seeking college degrees through El Café del Futuro Scholarships, which are given in partnership with the Hispanic Association Colleges and Universities. Café Bustelo® aims to invest in the Latino community by awarding scholarships to those who seek better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.


Banner image: Patricia Jaimes presenting her research at the Catalyzing Progress in Undergraduate STEM Education Conference at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in May. Courtesy photo.