Smithsonian exhibit features UTA professor

3D-printed statue of Cordero appears in exhibit highlighting female scientists

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2022 • Linsey Retcofsky : Contact

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A national exhibit featuring a statue of Minerva Cordero, professor of mathematics at The University of Texas at Arlington, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution through March 27.

#IfThenSheCan—The Exhibit is a collection of 120 3D-printed statues of female leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Cordero and others were chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls.

“If girls witness successful women who enjoy careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, then they will be more likely to pursue opportunities in STEM disciplines,” Cordero said. “The If/Then philosophy is ‘seeing is believing.’ The exhibit is meant to inspire young women to put themselves in the scientists’ places and think ‘That could be me one day.’”

The life-size statues depict a diverse coalition of contemporary women who are STEM innovators and role models leading a variety of fields. To create the sculptures, Cordero and the others posed inside of an imaging booth while a computer scanned their bodies. A specialized 3D printer processed the images and sculpted the statues by building layer upon layer of acrylic gel. QR codes accompany each sculpture, making it easy for visitors to learn about each woman’s accomplishments.

Cordero, an expert in finite geometries, has embraced mentoring young people who aspire to careers in STEM fields throughout her career. In recognition of her efforts, President Joe Biden awarded her the 2022 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. She is one of only 12 individuals selected for the honor.

She emphasized that an important part of recruiting young women to career paths in STEM fields is communication with their parents.

“I always ask parents to imagine that their daughter is a scientist, an engineer or a doctor because their thoughts will influence her opinion of her own abilities,” Cordero said. “The truth is that their daughter can be anything she can imagine, and parents have a role to play in supporting her imagination.”