Increasing diversity in the sciences: ASU graduate, professor recognized for their efforts


Sandra Leander

Science magazine is highlighting the efforts of national science organizations working with their local chapters to improve access to STEM fields for minorities, women and people with disabilities. In a June 7 article, Ashleigh Gonzales, an Arizona State University student who graduated in May with a Bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, discusses the challenges of majoring in a science field. Gonzales is blind.

“I had to convince science professors that I am able to take a class,” says Gonzales. “I want blind students to have equal opportunity in the sciences – or at least see it as an option.”

Her desire to pursue a degree in science was strongly supported by Page Baluch, associate research scientist with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and President of the Central Arizona Chapter of the Association for Women in Science. Gonzales is also a member of the organization.

Baluch taught Gonzales’ upper-level cell biotechnology course and has since worked with Gonzales, her classmate Leanne Harris and other faculty members, to develop new 3-D models that may help support blind and visually impaired students in STEM courses.

Freelance writer Jacqueline Ruttimann Oberst says, “To solve scientific problems, researchers are needed with diverse fields of expertise, life experiences, and perspectives. Yet women, many ethnic and racial groups, and people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in the STEM researcher community. Grassroots movements from local chapters of national organizations connect these aspiring scientists to those working in their field of interest—and show them that science truly welcomes all.”