soyuz 38

10 Amazing Latin@s in STEM

Luis Federico Leloir (born 1906. Paris, France)

Argentine biochemist received Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of metabolic pathways in lactose.

Jacinto Convit Garcia (born 1913. Caracas, Venezuela)

A Venezuelan physician, he developed a vaccine to fight leprosy and conducted studies to cure different types of cancer. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1988.

Ellen Ochoa (born 1958. Los Angeles, CA)

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She is also an inventor and pioneer of spacecraft technology.

Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez (born 1942. Guantanamo, Cuba)

Member of the Soyuz 38 Crew. Became the first Cuban and first Latin American in space in 1980.

Helen Rodriguez Trias (born 1929, NYC)

Puerto Rican-American pediatrician. Became first Latina president of the American Public Health Association. Helped expand the range of public heath services for women and children in minority and low income groups. 

Jose Hernandez (born 1962. French Camp, CA)

Mexican-American engineer and NASA astronaut. Helped develop a digital mammography imaging system. First person to tweet in spanish from space. (also a UCSB graduate, go gauchos!)

Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena (born 1917, Guadalajara)

Mexican electrical engineer and inventor of early color television transmission system. Brought color television to Mexico. A television system similar to his was used by NASA in 1979 aboard Voyager to take pictures of Jupiter.

Nitza Margarita Cintron (born 1950. San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Puerto Rican scientist and chief of space medicine and health care systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Served as project scientist for Space Lab 2 mission in the 1980s

Mario J Molina (born 1943. Mexico City)

Currently a professor at UCSD , he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 for his role in the discovery of the threat to the Earth’s ozone from chlorofluorocarbon gasses (CFCs).

Martha E. Bernal (born 1931. San Antonio)

Mexican-American psychologist and first Latina to receive a psychology PhD in the United States. Promoted diversity in the field of psychology.

On this date, September 18, 1980, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez became the first Cuban citizen, first Latin American and first person of African ancestry to travel in space.

Tamayo Méndez was born in Guantánamo, Cuba on January 29, 1942. He graduated from the Air Force Academy and then became a pilot in the Cuban air force. He then became a lieutenant colonel and was chosen to be a part of the Soviet Union’s Intercosmos program. Tamayo Méndez went into space as a crew member of Soyuz 38. In space, Tamayo Méndez and fellow cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko conducted many experiments. Some of their experiments included trying to find the cause for space adaptation syndrome and research on the crystallization of sucrose in microgravity with Cuban sugar. When Tamayo Méndez returned, he was presented with several awards such as the Hero of the Republic of Cuba medal.


Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez of Cuba. He was the first Latin American, and person of African descent to go to space.

Méndez flew aboard Soyuz 38 as part of the Soviet “Interkosmos” program with cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko on September 18th, 1980. For his service, he was awarded with the  “Order of the Bay of Pigs” and the title of “Hero of the Republic of Cuba” as well as “Hero of the Soviet Union” by the USSR.