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Race and Ethnicity Matters

Richard Tapia often tells disadvantaged children about his own humble upbringing in the barrios of Los Angeles. Then he tells them that he earns six figures as a mathematician. "People are shocked when they find out how much money I make," says Tapia, now Noah Harding Professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics and director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University. "[Counselors] told me I should be a trash worker or a mechanic, and not b

Paula Park

Richard Tapia often tells disadvantaged children about his own humble upbringing in the barrios of Los Angeles. Then he tells them that he earns six figures as a mathematician.

"People are shocked when they find out how much money I make," says Tapia, now Noah Harding Professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics and director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University. "[Counselors] told me I should be a trash worker or a mechanic, and not be a scientist."

But, Tapia adds, it's almost impossible to know whether his experience echoes the fate of most other Mexican American scientists: In National Science Foundation labor force studies, Hispanic scientists are lumped in a general category that includes everyone from the sons of migrant farm workers to the children of Spanish presidents. "What makes me mad is that a lot of the scholarships that...

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