Courtesy of L’Oréal USA
Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, Chemical Engineer at Princeton University, is awarded the 2013 L’Oréal Fellowship for Women in Science
The L’Oréal USA Fellowship for Women in Science is a national program that intends to recognize women within that discipline. The fellowship aims to raise public awareness of women contributing to the sciences. Additionally, it honors female researchers who may serve as role models to other women. Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brookes, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University, was awarded the L’Oréal USA Fellowship this year.
Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks currently works in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in Princeton University. She was born and raised in Panama, and her interest in science arose in the 11th grade thanks to her teacher, Yolanda Moreno de Niño. As Dr. Whittaker-Brooks shared, “she [her 11th grade teacher] was really enthusiastic about science and that made it easy for me to be interested in science [as well].” It is a known fact that science is a first choice career-path to many people. Nevertheless, the little interest there is in the scientific field propels her to be “a driving factor to encourage minorities to choose a STEM career,” just as her former teacher was to her. Having this in mind, Dr, Whittaker-Brooks pursued a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from the University of Panama; and a Masters of Science in Environmental Planning, from the Latin-American University of Science and Technology, Republic of Panama.
In the year 2007, she moved to the United States, where she worked towards another Masters of Science in Chemistry, from State University of New York. Afterward, she expanded her educational career by receiving a PhD in Chemistry from the latter institution. Her work in research has not been exclusive to Princeton, and has been the Junior Research Scientist in Cornell High Energy Synchroton Source (Grazing Incidence X-Ray Diffraction Experiments on Polymers Electronics) at Cornell University and at the National Synchrotron Light Source, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York.
Education would serve as a platform to further her contribution in science. Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks’ research has made an impact in chemical engineering and polymer science with several presentations, 12 publications and two patents. Moreover, her research discoveries have been displayed in the covers of four high-impact journals, such as the Journal of Materials Chemistry and in Journal of Physical Chemistry. Aside from this, she has won numerous academic and mentoring awards. Also, her passion is not limited only to science itself, but mentoring students by promoting and implementing teaching methodologies that focus on student-centered learning. There is absolutely no doubt, that Dr. Whittaker-Brooks is an exceptional and deserving candidate for her most recent award.
Presently, there has been an increase in women choosing the scientific field. Nonetheless, it is easy to assume that various obstacles must be overcome in order to succeed in a field dominated by men. On the other hand, Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks explains how the cultural bias (women in science) is transforming and decreasing. The opportunities she’s been granted with, demonstrate how gender is not a decisive factor, but her intellect and aptitude to conduct research. For example, Dr. Whittaker-Brooks indicated how, “performing meaningful research helped me feel like I was contributing to a greater cause-advancing human knowledge and developing foundations for the next wave of technological innovations.” She wants to see other minority students enter STEM education programs and career fields, this due to the high demand for skilled professionals.
Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks describes the numerous programs from which minority students can benefit. In the continuous effort to inspire others to study science, Dr. Luisa shares the positives from the field. In her words, “The cool thing about being in a STEM field is, that you have the ability to create and build stuff.” She supports this view with the creation of webpages, and how they help people in general. Also, the shared belief that in order to strengthen the economy in the United States, and maintain its competence globally, education in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering must be provided. For those considering a career in science, it is worth listening to someone already in the field. Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks’ encouraging words are, “I encourage you to gain experience by spending a couple of summers working in a lab with people that are successful doing their job. From there, you can tap into your talent and set your own career goals. Always discuss the sciences and explore your interest in a STEM field… At the end of the day, I guarantee that you will be totally satisfied by pursuing a STEM career.”
Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks’ current interest and projects in Princeton University are in working with polymers and organic electronics and researching photovoltaic characteristics of new solution-processable, non-fullerene acceptors. One of her career goals is to become an assistant professor and to have her own research laboratory.
Courtesy of L’Oréal USA