New LANL program aims to get more Indigenous women in physics

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LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – A new program at Los Alamos National Lab has the goal of getting more Indigenous women in physics.

Each year, the LANL program plans to recruit two Indigenous female physics students at Fort Lewis College with the goal of giving them experience at the lab.

Arielle Platero, 33, of Farmington, is one of those students. Platero is set to graduate from Fort Lewis College at the end of the year.

"I’m really interested in engineering and in physics," Platero said. "And I’m just waiting to see where this road will take me."

Platero is a member of the Navajo Nation. She believes more should be done to bring more Indigenous women into STEM fields.

"I definitely feel there are fewer Indigenous women in the STEM field," Platero said.

"We feel it’s important that as we are surrounded by tribal communities, that we actually take advantage of that and start building up a pipeline of students that actually consider having a Ph.D. in physics or a physics-related field," LANL physicist Astrid Morreale said.

The program manager hopes this opportunity helps fix the leaking pipeline that currently exists for underrepresented groups in these science fields.

"They are wanted and they are needed," Morreale said. "There is a way to reach that goal if this is what they want."

Platero hopes to inspire young Indigenous girls to join this predominantly-male workforce. She plans to get her Ph.D. and is looking into different programs.

At LANL’s program, their focus is on Fort Lewis College, for now, but they hope to expand to other schools in the future.