Unique Scientist: Carmen Cano

Meet Unique Scientist Carmen Cano (She/Her)! Carmen is originally from Guatemala but currently lives in the USA where she works at the University of Nebraska (@u_nebraska).

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a food scientist! My bachelor degree is in food engineering and I transitioned to food microbiology for graduate school. I am working on my PhD on food safety microbiology studying how to control Salmonella, the bacteria in chicken that can make people sick.

“I am a Latin American woman […] working on my PhD on food safety microbiology, studying how to control Salmonella, the bacteria in chicken that can make people sick.”

Carmen Cano

What made you want to become a scientist?
I have always been very curious about the world and I used to read a lot as a kid. My parents are both engineers, so they were very supportive. I had the opportunity to be an intern in a research lab when I finished undergrad and I was hooked on microbiology. I also think Willy Wonka from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” had something to do with my life choices.

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Well, I am a Latin American woman. I am lucky to be part of a very diverse department, so I’ve always had classmates that look like me, and some professors that fit into those categories. Something unusual about me is that I worked in the food industry for three years in between my masters and my PhD, so I’m one of the older students in my program. I enjoy using my research skills in both environments, and I will look for an industry job when I graduate.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I love baking! I worked at a bakery for over a year, I love the Great British Baking Show, and I even made Petri dish cookies for my Master’s defense. I’m a remote member of a book club. I enjoy plants, puzzles, and spending time at the grocery store looking at new food products.

“I was very lucky to have a series of fortunate events that led to me being a scientist, especially financially. I wish more people could have this option and be able to be a scientist, too.”

Carmen Cano

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would increase access to science, so that more people can see it and use it in their lives. I was very lucky to have a series of fortunate events that led to me being a scientist, especially financially. I wish more people could have this option and be able to be a scientist, too.

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
A lot of women. One of my neighbors growing up was a food scientist, and I thought her job was so cool! She was the first person I ever met with a masters in science. My undergraduate adviser was always supportive and helped me get many opportunities, because she believed in me. Finally, the four Latina women who were in the food science graduate program when I joined. Seeing them there made me feel like I belonged and I could do it too. 

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I finished my written comprehensive exams! They are an assessment of your knowledge, research skills, and critical thinking that is done around the middle of your PhD program. It’s been tough, but so am I. 

#WomenInSTEM, #LatinxInSTEM, #LatinasInSTEM

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