Molecular biologist, Lydia Villa-Komaroff is this week’s inspiring Latina for her strong dedication to the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem campaign, which empowers women to be confident and let their inner beauty shine. The Mexican American scientist began her college education at the University of Washington in Seattle and later transferred to Goucher College in Maryland. Lydia completed her graduate studies at MIT in Boston, making her the third chicana to receive a PhD in the U.S.
We recently spoke to Lydia about her incredible work and her messages to other Latinas who wish to pursue a career in the sciences. Check out our interview below:
What inspired you to become a molecular biologist?
"I was always interested in how things worked and I was fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents that supported my interest in science. I was one of those kids that liked to take things apart and study its functionality."
What’s the day in the life of a molecular biologist like?
"When I was younger, it pretty much consisted of being in a lab all day long. Then it became mostly about teaching, planning the experiments, and talking to my students, writing papers and grants. I also travel a lot to visit other scientists in other parts of the country and the world."
What do you love the most about your profession?
"There are many parts I love about it. I love the thrill of discovery. Next to that, I love watching my students go on into successful careers of their own."
What career challenges did you face in the beginning and how did you overcome it?
"Keeping my grades up was a huge challenge. My academic career was a bit checkered and for example, I had to take chemistry more than once. I was discouraged by one of my chemistry professor’s who said women didn’t belong in the sciences. I decided to get serious and work hard to [prove him wrong]."
What’s your advice to young women who want to get involved in the sciences?
"The most important thing that they can do is take math and science classes. If you think it’s too hard and you are afraid to take those classes, then you are closing doors. It’s important to work hard and push yourself to accomplish things that are worthwhile."
What’s the most gratifying part of forming part of Dove’s Self-Esteem campaign?
"Throughout my entire career, I’ve been interested in why there aren’t more Latinas in the sciences (and women in general). I’ve been working towards increasing these numbers and the Dove campaign really hits the issue at its core, which is developing confidence among young women. This is about encouraging girls to accept themselves and do the things they love."