UCI butterfly expert’s advocacy for Hispanic scientists takes wing with award

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Irvine, Calif., Dec. 19, 2019 — A University of California, Irvine biologist who studies the evolution of color and color perception in butterflies has captured the 2020 University Faculty Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, or AAHHE.

Adriana Briscoe, a professor of ecology & evolutionary biology with UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, said she hopes the honor will help encourage more young Latina women to pursue the life sciences. Only six percent of the bachelor’s degrees in that field are earned by Hispanic women, according to the National Science Foundation.

The award annually recognizes a Latino faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in research and teaching as well as contributed to their academic discipline. The AAHHE was founded 15 years ago to address Hispanic concerns, with a focus on higher education. The organization notes that while Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., they are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate enrollment as well as graduation rates. Hispanic professors in tenure-track positions represent only about four percent of total faculty, a figure that has not changed in the past decade.

According to AAHHE President Loui Olivas, Briscoe is being recognized because of her “exhaustive and prolific production of scholarly papers, presentations, and awards. The University of California, Irvine is fortunate to have her as a faculty role model.”

Briscoe said: “The AAHHE has tried since its inception to raise the educational attainment level of Hispanics in the United States. Receiving this award from an organization in whose mission I firmly believe is a great honor.”

She recently expressed her passion on the issue by authoring the op-ed Latino Stem Teachers, DACA, and the Future of Teaching for the non-profit news organization Latino Rebels.

“Professor Briscoe’s award and interest in encouraging Hispanics to become biologists are very important for the future of life sciences,” said Frank M. LaFerla, dean of the School of Biological Sciences. “Bringing more talented people into our field expands our capacity to discover solutions to the great challenges facing the future, while providing them with careers that are exciting and rewarding.”

He noted that UCI is the top UC campus choice for first-generation students and those from underrepresented groups. The U.S. Department of Education named UCI a Hispanic-serving institution for 2017-18, meaning one-quarter of undergraduates identify as Latino and that half of all students receive financial aid.

Briscoe has received numerous other honors and awards. They include the 2018 SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. She has also been elected as a fellow of three science orginizations: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences and the Royal Entomological Society.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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