Mechanical engineering student exemplifies the power and perseverance of women in STEM

This story was published in FIU News by Dominique Kent.

Growing up as a woman interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Patricia Garcia, a mechanical engineering major in the College of Engineering & Computing, faced the same question that all women on a similar path have to face. Is the stereotype true? Is STEM really “better suited for men?”

Recently, media company Televisa selected Garcia as the undergraduate face of their TECHNOLOchicas campaign, to empower Latina women in STEM. In this experience, Garcia shared that the stereotype made her question her future in the field of her choice. Yet, through it all, she has risen above her fears and proved that STEM is for women, too.

Garcia has left Miami to participate in prestigious internships every summer since her high school graduation, interning at places such as the University of Miami, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California Berkeley. She was also selected as one of 20 undergraduate students chosen for the 2020 University of South Florida Frank and Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Program. Of the 20 fellows, up to five scholars will be chosen by the panel of judges to receive an additional $5,000.

Garcia says her most recent internship at UC Berkeley, in partnership with Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute in China, opened her mind to a global perspective. While there, as she worked on her project—designing and developing a piezoelectret pulse sensor device to detect human pulse signals; she spoke and interacted with people from all over the world.

Being a woman in STEM comes with its own challenges, but Garcia has had to face her share of personal challenges, as well. In her senior year of high school, Garcia’s mother became ill, prompting Garcia to spend extensive amounts of time with her in the hospital. That’s why Garcia ultimately decided to stay in Miami for school rather than going away to college. It also provided some clarity on her future career aspirations. Since her mother’s illness, her projects have focused on the biomedical side of engineering.

“Those are the experiences that mold you and help you to become a better, more resilient person,” says Garcia.

Garcia is an FIU legacy student—her mother graduated from FIU in 1987, and Garcia grew up driving past the university. Now, she is truly an example of someone that has experienced FIU to the fullest.

At FIU, she’s a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). She recently came in second place in the iChangeFIU competition with her start-up idea that focused on creating more sustainable, inclusive and school-spirited college campuses.

Garcia came up with the idea for her start-up after studying at and visiting other college campuses, where she has conducted undergraduate research as well as participating in hackathons at Harvard and Stanford.

When asked what she would say to high schoolers considering FIU for college, Garcia says: “There are so many resources that FIU has to offer.” Resources include multiple laboratories, centers and institutesfound at the College of Engineering & Computing.

In addition to SHPE and SWE, Garcia has been involved with StartUP FIU, Office of Global Learning and the FIU Honors College.

In late 2018, she was appointed to the Strategic Planning Process for FIU’s 2025 Strategic Plan. She was on the Highest Research Committee as a member of the workgroup within that committee focusing on engaging undergraduate students in research and creative activities. The workgroup was chaired by Juan Carlos Espinosa, the dean of the Honors College.

Garcia recently was awarded the Robert V. Farrell Global Learning Scholarship in Sustainable Development by the Office of Global Learning to apply toward her start-up. She was also selected as a 2020 Transformation Contest winner, after sharing the “global awakening” she experienced during her time at UC Berkeley.

For women looking at going into the STEM field, “It’s really important to find female mentors in your field,” Garcia sayssays. “It’s always really crucial to keep your head up.”

Garcia recently became the undergraduate face of the national TECHNOLOchicas 4.0 campaign. This campaign is a partnership between the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Televisa Foundation to inspire Latinas in STEM.

“It’s really easy to get discouraged when you don’t see others who look like you,” Garcia says. “I believe it’s really important to encourage the next generation of Latinas to pursue a career in STEM.”

Garcia described the filming for the TECHNOLOchicas campaign as an action-packed two days, where she went back to visit her old high school, the Young Women’s Preparatory Academy in Miami, which she credits for her early interest in STEM.

In her TECHNOLOchicas video, Garcia says that she wants to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. She also encourages parents to nurture the STEM ambitions of their children from a young age.

Garcia is an inspiration and an example for all the women coming after her in the world of STEM – her success says, loud and clear, that no dream is too difficult, and nothing can stop a woman who knows where she wants to go.

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