Hispanic Lifestyle is pleased to recognize Professor at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Department of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Karen Lozano PhD, Mechanical Engineering and Materials as a 2018 Latina of Influence. Dr. Lozano along with our entire list of 2018 Latinas of Influence are invited to participate in Hispanic Lifestyle’s 2018 Latina Conference taking place April 4 and 5, 2018 in Ontario, California.
ABOUT – Dr. Karen Lozano from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Department of Mechanical Engineering.
I was born to very hard working parents who inspired me through all my life. I knew since I was a little girl that I needed to do my best given that my parents were doing more than their best. My mom always held two jobs, one as a housewife and the other as a seamstress where she designed, sewed, and sold uniforms to local kindergartens.
I remember her always working so hard at nights or early in the mornings sometimes under extreme heat since we did not have air conditioning at home. My dad worked at a company until I was 9 years old when he was laid-off and started to work as a provider of fruits and vegetables to local restaurants. He used to buy the groceries very early in the morning, load himself a little truck, drive it and unload it, I accompanied with him sometimes and watched him carry heavy sacks of food. Since I was in fourth grade I started telling my mom that I wanted to be a scientist. My mom always told me that if God gave me special talents, I should work hard to cultivate them, and always try my best. She told me that I should not be driven by stereotypes. Though I am sure my mom knew that I was dreaming too high but she never discouraged me. What is a scientist for a 10 year old Mexican girl? Well, certainly a man, definitively not very young and of course not Hispanic. When it was time to enroll in college, I decided for Mechanical Engineering even though in Mexico it was not considered a major for girls, but my mom encouraged me and expressed that if they (my dad and her) were going to provide for an education, why should I pursued something that I do not like just because society tells me to do so. I received my BS in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business. I was the only woman to graduate in that class and fifth woman in the history of the University (25 years at that time). During my last semesters I took extra credits since the Mexican economy was deteriorating as well as my family’s economy. I knew that I needed to graduate as soon as possible to avoid the high probability of dropping out of school to work and help my parents. My last semester was very hard on them. I always worked during the summers, selling water filters, as a swimming instructor, and as a waitress. As a coincidence, when I graduated, my dad lost his job, but thanks to God I started working as a technical advisor in a company and was able to provide for them.
On my Senior year I started to consider the opportunity to pursue graduate school. It was my childhood dream though now as a grown up, I was finding it was in fact only a dream. I had no money at all. Nonetheless I signed for the TOEFL and GRE tests (just in case, I am quite pro-active). During this time, two professors from Rice University visited UDEM looking for students to start an outreach program. I filled the application immediately and on April 1994 I was offered a Rice fellowship. When I learned about it, it was a very difficult moment. I was very excited about the opportunity, but very confused about leaving my house, being the oldest one, and the only one with a salary at On August 1994 I started working on my M.S. under the excellent guidance of Dr. Enrique V. Barrera. My first year at Rice was extremely difficult, the courses were difficult, the cultural shock, and the concern about my family made it even more difficult. I worked really hard (as my parents always showed me), got adjusted to the culture and saved money on everything (even on food, my budget for meals was $23.00/week) so I could help my family.
I received my Master’s degree in May 1999; I defended my thesis being five months pregnant, my angel Jorge was born on September 1996. On April 7, 1999, I presented my dissertation, it was such an exciting moment for me and my family, I worked extremely hard for that moment. I was the first Mexican woman to receive a PhD in Engineering from Rice in more than 87 years and fifth among all women to get a PhD from the department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.On August 2001 I found out that I was pregnant for the second time, we were very excited about it. I had a difficult pregnancy but kept my work as usual, finally at the beginning of my sixth month I was ordered bed rest. At the end of the seventh month Marcelo was born. Being premature he stayed in the ICU for five days, the day we took him home, we received a phone call from Mexico; we were informed that my dad had just passed away. He was relatively healthy and died from a massive heart attack. It was such a sad day and still can not recover from it, but I do know that he was very proud of me. I now missed him, but he left leaving what is more important in life, an educated child that can contribute to her community.
All my life I have worked so hard, nothing has been easy but I have learned that through perseverance and hard work, dreams can come true. I have a friend that once described me as somebody that never gives up when trouble shows up “nunca se te atora la carreta”. I am thankful to God that He has provided me with talents and has surrounded me with people that I can rely on, my parents, my brother, my husband and my two little angels.