|My mother came from Alamogordo, New Mexico. My dad is from Mexico but he grew up in Laredo, Texas, and my two younger sisters and I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. It was a very stable environment, as we only moved once in the entire time I was growing up. While my dadís side of the family is from Mexico, they are largely from European and Spanish ancestry, so they are lighter skinned than my motherís side of the family where there is great cultural mixing between the Mexican and the indigenous cultures of Mexico. This mix of cultures has always been something Iím aware of, because it showed me how differences in skin color really affect the way people view you.
My momís side of the family can be traced back to the Aztecs. My grandmother used to tell me about how the tribes could use the stars to understand nature. These stories helped me to become interested in science and especially physics because that is the branch of science that astronomy fell under. My early interest in science shaped the first twenty-two years of my life. I always knew that I wanted to be an astronomer, but it was not until I was in graduate school that I found out I should change to astrophysics. There really werenít any role models that helped show me that it would be possible to get the education I needed so that I could become an astrophysicist.
I was a pretty good high school student, but when I got to college I remember thinking, This is hard! I think the problem was that when I was in high school things were too easy. Even though I was not doing well in college there was a chairman at the University of Dallas who believed in me. He remembered my high school records and gave me encouragement when I needed it. So at first college was hard, but I learned to be a good student. Fortunately, I took a year off from school, and I got a very boring job. That helped me realize that having a boring job was not the way I wanted to spend the next forty years of my life and I decided that I would become an astrophysicist after all! I eventually applied to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, because the Space Telescope Science Institute had just been established there. Baltimore had no Chicano or Latino community at that time, and, for a while I hated it there. I thought seriously about dropping out of the program and transferring to another university. However, over time, I really grew to love the city and eventually I obtained my doctorate degree in physics.
I am now an associate professor of physics at Southwest Texas State University where I teach and do research. My research now is in developing very thin film materials for various uses. For example, videocassettes use magnetic films to record information. These films are sometimes only a few atoms in thickness. To get an idea of how thin these films are, a dime is about 5 million atoms thick!
I suggest that you never underestimate the power of education, and never stop learning, no matter what your career is. People who do this always succeed in whatever they choose to do with their lives.