The Daily Texan highlights UT alumnae in STEM

Stephanie Jumper, General Life&Arts Reporter

As of 2019, women only make up 27% of STEM workers in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, UT alumnae continue to prove women’s rightful place in STEM fields that historically excluded women. In honor of Women’s History Month, The Daily Texan compiled a list of alumnae who made groundbreaking accomplishments in STEM disciplines. 

Vivienne Malone-Mayes

The first African-American woman to receive a mathematics doctorate from her alma mater, Vivienne Malone-Mayes took on seminal STEM positions, including serving as the first Black executive committee member of the Association for Women in Mathematics. Despite her initial rejection from Baylor University based on race, she later entered Baylor as the college’s first Black faculty member, earning the title of Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year in 1971.

Carmen Wright

UT’s first Black woman to graduate with a doctorate in chemical engineering, Carmen Wright, also served as the first Black woman in Shell Chemical Company. During her undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech, she worked as a lab intern at Union Carbide, which inspired her to pursue further education at UT. After 10 years at Shell, she left the field to focus on family, a choice she said was part of “redefining (her) definition of success.” 

Frances Northcutt

NASA trailblazer Frances Northcutt became the first female engineer to work in the organization’s mission control center. Her aeronautical endeavors began as a computress, and she later rose through the ranks and achieved feats such as taking part in ensuring the safety of Apollo 13 astronauts when their oxygen tanks malfunctioned. Her experiences in a male-dominated industry inspired her advocacy for women’s equality, catalyzing her career switch to an attorney and women’s representative in Houston. Despite her long list of accomplishments, she refers to herself as a “one time rocket scientist, sometime lawyer, full time women’s rights activist.”

Donna Nelson

As the science advisor on CW show “Breaking Bad,” chemist Donna Nelson’s expertise bridges the gap between movie magic and accuracy in entertainment. Nelson received her doctorate in chemistry from UT, now serving as a professor at the University of Oklahoma for over 30 years. She also acted as the American Chemical Society president in 2016. Through her Nelson Diversity Surveys, she empowers fellow women in STEM by quantifying gender and minority gaps in college engineering and science departments.

Elsa Salazar Cade

Retired science teacher Elsa Salazar Cade understands the value of quality education to inspire STEM accomplishments. Following her time at UT, she taught fourth grade, remedial math and reading and middle school science. Cade evidently excelled in igniting the STEM spark, earning the title of one of America’s top 10 science teachers by the National Science Teachers Association. Her education advocacy extends outside the classroom by volunteering for Alberta Science Foundation, as well as once serving on nonprofit Board of Science Alberta. Alongside her husband Bill, Cade demonstrated her entomological merit through her 30 years of researching the Texas field cricket.