In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month, we’re highlighting AAPI innovators, inventors, and educators that have contributed to STEM. Here are just a few AAPI scientists, explorers, and educators that have shaped STEM.
Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian-born woman in space. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Science and aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, India. She holds a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado. Chawla was the mission specialist for the Columbia Space Shuttle. Tragically, Chawla and her six other crew members perished in the Space Shuttle explosion in 1986. Also on board was the first Asian American astronaut, Colonel Ellison Onizuka was a distinguished U.S. Air Force pilot. Previously, he had recently completed a mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985
Dr. Fujita was integral to the study of tornados, known as “Mr. Tornado” by colleagues and the media, Dr. Fujita created a six-point scale to measure tornado wind intensity known as the Fujita Scale. In addition, he also discovered downbursts and microbursts phenomena. His work was important to understanding the relationship between wind speed and damage and how they can affect communities.
Isabella Aiona Abbott was the first native Hawaiian woman to earn a Ph.D. in science (botany). Abbott was one of the most famous ethnobotanist, a scientist who studies the relationship between people and plants. During her career, she published over 150 journal articles and wrote eight books. Abbott is most famously known for her expertise in Pacic algae, particularly Hawaiian seaweed (“limu” in Hawaiian). Because of this, she’s been nicknamed the “First Lady of Limu.”
Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American particle and experimental physicist who made significant contributions in the fields of nuclear and particle physics. Wu’s work in experimental physics advanced the work of the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the development of a nuclear bomb. Wu’s discoveries led to her colleagues winning the 1957 Nobel Prize, while Wu herself was overlooked for the award.
Steven Chu is a Chinese American physicist and was the 12th U.S. secretary of energy. Chu earned his doctorate in physics from University of California, Berkeley. In his research career, he has worked at Bell Laboratories, Stanford University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was a co-winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for research on how to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He served as U.S. energy secretary from January 2009 to April 2013, and was a strong proponent of nuclear power and renewable energy.