New Mexico Tech students view identity through a STEM lens

Nov. 18, 2022

National conference for LGBTQ+ students in STEM awards top prize to Tech student’s research

NMT delegation at oSTEM Conference

New Mexico Tech students who traveled to the oSTEM Conference in Boston Nov. 11-13, 2022. From left: Elebello Cordova, AJ Schlesinger, Natalie Schneider, Nicolas Sheeran, Maria D’Orazio, Marcella Garcia, Elizabeth Enos, Zaid Cazares, Lauren Giles, and Jack Sterrett. 

SOCORRO, N.M. – A New Mexico Tech mechanical engineering senior attended a national conference for students in STEM and received a first place award for her research project about measuring temperature in burning rocket propellant samples. But it was the support and solidarity she found amongst her fellow scientists that made Maria D’Orazio feel most proud. 

D’Orazio was part of a 10-member delegation of New Mexico Tech students that recently attended the national conference for LGBTQ+ people in STEM fields. The 12th annual oSTEM Conference (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) was held in Boston, Massachusetts, Nov. 11-13, 2022. 

Maria D'Orazio
New Mexico Tech mechanical engineering major Maria D’Orazio poses next to her research poster at the oSTEM Conference in Boston Nov. 11-13, 2022.

The oSTEM Conference provides a venue for LGBTQ+ students to network and learn about the latest research investigated by their peers in STEM. The conference also included a poster session open to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs to showcase their own research to other conference attendees. A number of participants were provided an opportunity to deliver a 10-minute oral presentation. A career fair included major companies and organizations such as NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, the Department of Energy, MATHWORKS, and many others.

D’Orazio, received first place for her poster illustrating her research project, “Design of a Four Channel Pyrometer for Analysis of High Temperature Events.” D’Orazio is a graduate of Miyamura High School in Gallup and is planning to attend graduate school at New Mexico Tech next year.

D’Orazio said the conference was a great experience for queer people in STEM, offering a range of exciting opportunities for professional development and personal growth. 

Maria D'Orazio
New Mexico Tech mechanical engineering major Maria D’Orazio answers questions during the research poster presentation session at the oSTEM Conference in Boston Nov. 11-13, 2022.

“I got a chance to experience being surrounded by people who belong to my community and feel proud and excited about my identity,” she said. “I got to attend several talk sessions and workshops ranging from mental health, to navigating a STEM profession as a member of the LGBT+ community, to applying for government jobs, to being successful in a STEM career in general. There were lots of great opportunities and it was very exciting to take advantage of them all.”

For the last year, D’Orazio has worked with mechanical engineering professor Dr. Michael Hargather and his research group in support of his National Nuclear Security Administration - Department of Energy Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP) project.

“Maria has been an outstanding undergrad researcher,” Dr. Hargather said. “She has worked hard to learn and research spectroscopic techniques and then designed and built her own spectrometer and applied it to the measurements of propellant burn temperatures.”

Ten New Mexico Tech students attended the conference, funded by the Student Government Association and the Dean of Students Office: Zaid Cazares, Elebello Cordova, Maria D’Orazio, Elizabeth Enos, Marcella Garcia, Lauren Gilesm AJ Schlesinger, Natalie Schneider, Nicolas Sheeran, and Jack Sterrett.