Doctoral student receives Women of Color GEM Student Leadership Award

Posted: January 13, 2023
Samantha Mendez holds her award in front of a Center for Electronic Microscopy & Research sign
Materials science and engineering PhD student Samantha Mendez

Samantha Mendez, a third-year materials science and engineering PhD student, received the 2022 Women of Color National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) Student Leadership Award.

Presented at the 2022 Women of Color STEM Conference, the Women of Color GEM Student Leadership Award recognizes a student with creative energy and an accomplished academic record. Past winners have had an impact on other students and their future interests, while also making valuable contributions to society. The National GEM Consortium seeks to increase the participation of underrepresented groups at the master's and doctoral levels in engineering and science by awarding fellowships to students.

Mendez is a College of Engineering Discovery Scholar Fellow, a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and volunteers at a local food market. Through the CEMAS Graduate Wellness Committee, SHPE and SACNAS, she participates in community outreach and encourages minority students to pursue STEM careers.

“It was such an honor to win an award for leadership because I am passionate about being active in my community and giving back,” said Mendez. “I have always had a goal to inspire others to achieve more.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Mendez came to The Ohio State University to pursue a PhD after studying mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She received the GEM Fellowship for her first year at Ohio State and began attending the consortium’s conferences and events. After being involved in many nationwide GEM initiatives and events, Mendez received notification that she had been nominated for the Student Leadership Award.

Mendez’s research focuses on nanomaterials for high-energy density batteries. She chose to attend Ohio State because her passion for sustainability led to interest in faculty members’ sustainable materials and energy research. Initially, Mendez worked with Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Vicky Doan-Nguyen, who introduced her to the capabilities available at the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS). Using CEMAS’ world-class instruments for imaging and analysis, Mendez employs both x-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) methods to further the synthesis and testing of nanomaterial additives in batteries.

“Before coming to Ohio State, I had used electron microscopes, but never had a facility to do the analysis,” Mendez said. “Having access to a facility like CEMAS has greatly expanded my research.”

Mendez is now a member of Associate Professor Anne Co’s group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry while pursuing a PhD in materials science and engineering. While undecided on whether to pursue industry or academia after completing her PhD, she plans to continue to use her education and experiences to encourage historically underrepresented students to further their education in STEM.

by Jocelyn Wells, CDME communications

Categories: StudentsAwards