My name is Daisy Rosas Vargas. I received my chemistry B.S. from UC San Diego and am currently working on my PhD in Chemistry at Indiana University.
Growing up, I was always curious about the world. By the time I was in mid-elementary school I knew I wanted to be a scientist and thought I wanted to be a veterinarian/ zoologist/paleontologist. It was not until an all-girl, summer science camp in 7th grade, Tech Trek, that I really became interested in chemistry. I took a “Mystery Powders” class where we had to figure out an unknown compound with various chemical tests (acid-base reactions). I felt like a scientist. From that summer on, I have continued to be curious about chemistry.
My research in graduate school has been developing new methodologies to make challenging carbon-carbon bonds, using metals found on earth like palladium and iron, so medicinal chemist can use them to expand their synthetic toolbox to make novel drugs. Another way to explain my research is through Legos. I want to take a red and a green rectangular Lego and make them stick together. I need a blue square Lego to join them together, the metal catalyst. Once the blue Lego joins the two pieces together, it removes itself, leaving the red and green rectangular Legos are permanently stuck together. The blue lego that joined the two Lego pieces together is recycled and used to make other Legos stick together. This analogy is similar to making carbon-carbon bonds.
I continue to do outreach while doing research. I volunteer my time at the local science museum, Wonderlab, as an early childhood education intern, and the Indiana State Museum as a ‘Meet the Scientist’ volunteer. I like to be involved in science fairs to support and encourage all the young scientists to continue to be curious about the world. It has been though this science engagement with the public that I have had the opportunity to also address underrepresented minorities in the science community.
During an outreach event at the Indiana State Museum, I was approached by a father and his son. They explored the chemistry activity and became really curious about the science. After explaining the science in Spanish to the father, he asked about how I became interested in science and I gladly told him my story. He then told me that he was proud that a daughter of immigrants from Mexico was being so successful in science and breaking barriers in the science and political climate of today. He then said that my parents should be proud. My parents have been very supportive of me pursuing my education and career choices. It is during small interactions, a conversation with a parent or seeing a lightbulb click in a young child’s mind about a science concept, that really make me proud that I am one of many scientists communicating science and defying stereotypes (gender, race, ethnicity, etc). I want to show a young curious mind that scientists do not all look the same.
My advice to a young woman aspiring to pursue a career in science is take your time. There is no one path to get a career. We should appreciate the winding road that takes us to the career path that truly makes us the happiest