More than 500 young women from middle schools in Brownsville, La Joya and Edinburg filled the Fieldhouse on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus for Latina Day, part of UTRGV’s 17th annual Hispanic, Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week.

They were gathered to listen to powerful, inspirational women from the Rio Grande Valley and beyond, like Dr. Kate Biberdorf, also known as Kate the Chemist.

Biberdorf said she was there to “blow stuff up,” and that’s exactly what she did as she demonstrated how to learn and have fun at the same time. It was all about the science.

The associate professor of instruction in the Department of Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, known for her high energy and larger-than-life presentations, demonstrated science experiments by mixing together common household items and chemicals, breathing fire and, as promised, blowing things up.

She said being part of a STEM field is an opportunity to share your passion with everybody around you.

“To every young girl: Go after your dream. And no matter what anybody says … never give up on your dream,” she urged.

“Anybody can be a scientist. Anybody can be an engineer. Anybody can be a mathematician. All you need to do is to ask questions and follow your dream,” she said.



Earlier in the day, Denisce Palacios, president of the UTRGV Student Government Association, addressed the group of young women only marginally younger than herself.

“Do not ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you are a woman and especially not because you’re a Latina,” Palacios said. “You should never let anyone tell you to sit down and be quiet.”

Palacios asked everyone in the audience to raise her right hand and take an oath with her: “I promise to never drop out. I promise to never give in. I promise to never give up.”

Daisy Allen, an eighth-grader from Ann Richards Middle School in Palmview, said the lesson for her was that everyone has opportunities, no matter who you are or what background you come from.

“Latina Day is day to celebrate true heritage, to know that your roots are strong,” said Allen, who is interested in studying engineering.

Another speaker, Linda Tovar, public affairs manager for H-E-B, which sponsors Latina Day, said she loves being able to bring a special message to Latinas during HESTEC.

“Latina Day is a very special day. It’s being yourself, being authentic, not being afraid of who you are and coming forth on your cultura,” Tovar said. “It’s very important for females to know we’re special and unique in our own way.”