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...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!