Words of Wisdom from Women in STEM: Rosa M. Valdés, PhD, Director of Research and Evaluation, LAUP | Los Angeles Universal Preschool and El Rancho High School Alum!

A Day in Space will be an excellent opportunity to talk with real engineers, rocket scientists and researchers and find out more about how they made it. We’re proud to include several women in the field, many of whom are first-generation Latinas. We spoke to a few to gain some insight on their background and what mindset has helped them succeed as a woman in the space or STEM industry.

It’s an honor to have El Rancho High School Alum, Dr. Rosa Valdés join our inaugural “A Day In Space” event. Dr. Valdés will be at the LAUP booth in the Space Fair hall helping to demonstrate STEM activities for preschool/PreK learners.

As a fellow “Donna,” we asked Dr. Valdés to share some pivotal moments in her career with us…

Looking back, as a young, first-generation female, what did you feel were your limitations or hesitations when thinking about the road to your career? Who or what made you realize that you could overcome those limitations.

I remember feeling like I had been admitted to college, then my graduate program, then eventually offered excellent research jobs because people felt sorry for me and wanted to give me a chance, not that I really belonged in those places. I lived in fear that at any moment, I would be discovered as not having enough talent and would be “kicked out” or “fired.” I have since come to understand that many young people starting their careers have this “impostor syndrome.” I was very lucky that several women along my path uplifted and affirmed me as a researcher, taking my ideas seriously and helping me to make real contributions to solve important problems.

Who were the inspiring women in your life and why?

I have a wonderful, loving and supportive mom, who showed me how to persevere in the face of significant life challenges. I internalized ethics of hard work, compassion, service, and tenacity through her guidance. There were also important women who took a chance on me, pulled me up into their environments, and mentored me to do their jobs. They gave me new tools, including self-confidence that made available to me whole new worlds in which to create opportunities for future first-generation people.