EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks Discusses Her L'Oreal Research Fellowship and Latinas in STEM

We already know the facts: Women are vastly underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) undergrad programs and jobs. 

In fact, according to the Economics & Statistics Administration, women hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs and a disproportionately low share of science-related undergraduate degrees. 

Dr. Luisa Whittaker-Brooks is hoping to change that statistic, and she's leading by example. The Latina is using her passion for scientific research to inspire other minority women to pursue their dream of career in STEM.  

Last week, the Panama native was awarded the For Women in Science Fellowship, sponsored by UNESCO and L’Oreal. She competed with over 350 applicants for one of five fellowships, valued at up to $60,000 each.

Dr. Whittaker-Brooks won the fellowship for her post-doctoral research at Princeton University, where she focuses on renewable energy sources, such as solar energy. She hopes that by concentrating on recyclable energy, she can create products that enable all of us to personally capture, store, and release energy that is created from our daily movement, our body heat, or the sun! 

We spoke with Dr. Whittaker-Brooks at the L’Oreal USA Fellowships for Women In Science Tenth Anniversary Award Ceremony, where we discussed her research, her Panamanian heritage, and her advice for minority women in STEM: 

What will you be using your fellowship to work on? 

I’m working on alternative renewable energy sources.This is good for us because the environment is asking for it! The environment screams at us that we are just contaminating it excessively. I'm looking for new alternatives to cut down on the negative impact. 

I’m working on solar energy for flexible electronics. By flexible, I mean things that I can actually adjust to your body and can generate some type of electricity. So, for example, your heart beat. Your heart beats 24 hours a day–unless you’re dead! It beats! So there’s some kind of mechanical energy going on there. If we can turn that mechanical energy into electricity, you could be sleeping besides your cell phone and charging it. 

Read Dr. Whittaker-Brooks advice for women in STEM on page 2 >>>