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Latina/o Studies and Writing in the Natural Sciences

Latina/o Studies is a vibrant field that intersects with many disciplines. The intersections between Latina/o Studies and the natural sciences are rich, and there are many underexplored avenues for scholars to pursue. As the Latina/o/x population in the United States grows (it is more than 18.3% of the US population as of 2019), people are paying more attention to the contributions of Latina/o/x to STEM fields. At the same time, in many of these fields, scholars have overlooked or minimized the contributions of Latina/o/x populations or erected structural barriers that prevent Latina/o/x from being recognized or trained in these fields.

This page is designed to introduce you to some of the issues at the crossroads of Latina/o Studies and the natural sciences and provide you with ideas and guidance to help you design a natural science unit. This page also includes a sample Unit Assignment. Instructors may directly incorporate the sample unit assignment into their syllabi, but the assignments are also designed so that instructors can easily modify and adjust the sample to align with their goals for the unit.

What Are Some of the Major Topics at the Intersection of Latina/o Studies and the Natural Sciences that my class might explore?

            Like any discipline, the field of Latina/o Studies is constantly evolving. The following list is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather is designed to demonstrate the breadth of topics germane to Latina/o Studies and the Natural Sciences:

  • Latina/o/x contributions (recognized and unrecognized) in STEM fields including:
    • Botany
    • Astronomy
    • Mathematics
  • STEM and social justice
  • LatinX environmentalisms
  • Community-generated scientific knowledge and practices
  • Strategies for STEM empowerment in K-12 schools
  • Recruitment and retention of Latina/o/x STEM students in higher education
  • Impacts of discrimination on Latina/o/x healthcare and health outcomes
As an Instructor, What Can I Incorporate into a Natural Science-Based Latina/o Studies Unit?

A useful starting point for instructors is to consider where their own expertise might intersect with Latina/o Studies, and then conducting supplementary research to help build your assignment. For example, if you specialize in literature of medicine, you might consider designing a unit assignment that centers on Latina/o/x medical narratives, on ethno-medical practices, on ethnobotany, on the role of alternative medicine and botanicas in Latina/o/x communities, and many other topics related to multifactorial cultural variations in concepts of health, prevention of illness, illness, and treatments.

You might also consider using current events and campus and community resources to anchor your unit assignment. The Latina/o Studies Program Staff are available for consultation as you embark on creating or modifying a unit assignment.

When designing your unit, you might consider consulting the following campus and community resources:

When creating your unit, you may also want to consider incorporating the following lessons into your schedule:

  • An introduction to Latina/o Studies
  • An introduction to methodology in the natural sciences, common pitfalls in the natural sciences, and examples of ethical, decolonial research practices
  • A discussion of the history of natural sciences, including Latina/o/x contributions to the natural sciences, discrimination in STEM fields, and marginalization of Latina/o/x contributions
What Types of Unit Assignments Lend Themselves Well to Latina/o Studies and Writing in the Natural Sciences?

            There is no limit to the types of units one can create that incorporate Latina/o Studies. The Sample Unit Assignment culminates in a Policy Brief for a hospital, but could be easily modified to incorporate other topics and audiences. Other final projects could include:

  • Popular science article
  • Grant application
  • Research proposal
  • News article
Sample Unit Assignment

In this assignment, students prepare a policy brief for their local hospital. Their research begins with choosing a topic related to Latina/o/x healthcare and reviewing the research on that topic, followed by drafting the scope of the problem and policy alternatives, and culminating in a completed fellowship application.

            Note: this sample unit project is broad in scope, but could easily be modified to focus on a narrower subfield.

LSP Writing in the Natural Sciences Sample Unit Assignment (PDF version)

LSP Writing in the Natural Sciences Sample Unit Assignment (MS Word version)

For more sample unit assignments, click here to see what some of our Latina/o Studies Teaching Award Recipients have done.

  1. Rincón, Blanca. “Does Latinx Representation Matter for Latinx Student Retention in STEM?” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, (Thousand Oaks, CA: 2018)
  2. DeGuzmán, María, “LatinX Botanical Epistemologies.Cultural Dynamics (Thousand Oaks, CA: 2018).
  3. Fernandes, Anthony, Marta Civil, Altha Cravey, and María DeGuzmán, “Educating to Empower Latina/os in Mathematics in the New South.” US Latinization: Education and the New Latino South, eds. Spencer Salas and Pedro R Portes (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2017).
  4. Fingal, Sarah, “Latinx EnvironmentalismOxford Research Encyclopedia of American History (Oxford, UK: 2019).
  5. McGee, Ebony and Lydia Bentley, “The Equity Ethic: Black and Latinx College Students Reengineering their STEM Careers toward Justice.” American Journal of Education, vol. 124, no. 1 (Chicago, IL, 2017).
  6. Freeman, Kimberly. Bonding, Bridging, and Linking: Investigating Collaborative Approaches towards Expanding the Representation of African American and Latinx Students Pursuing Graduate Study in STEM. (UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2018).
  7. DeGuzmán, María. “Rane Arroyo’s Astronomical Optics in “Solar Constant.” Centro Journal, vol. 30, no. 2 (New York, NY: 2018): 200–233.
  8. Zamani-Gallaher, Eboni M, HyeJin Tina Yeo, Angel L Velez, Heather L Fox, and Michelle Samet, “Stem Completion at Hispanic-Serving Community Colleges.” Office of Community College Research and Leadership (Champaign, IL: 2019).
  9. Camacho, Michelle Madsen and Susan M. Lord. The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. 1st Edition. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013.
  1. Crotty, James Marshall. “Are Hispanics America’s Next Great STEM Innovators?” Forbes. 22 of November 2011:
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