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Empowering Latinos and Hispanics in STEM: Reflections on SHPE Nationals 2023

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is a national organization committed to empowering and furthering the growth of Latinos and Hispanics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). This is achieved through the organization’s Five Pillars of Development, focusing on community, leadership, academic excellence, social interaction, and professional readiness.

A much-awaited event on SHPE’s calendar is the SHPE National Convention, a time when members from chapters across the United States converge to celebrate their shared identity as Latinos and Hispanics in STEM. This year, SHPE Nationals 2023 took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, from November 1–5, marking a historic milestone as the largest SHPE National Conference to date, with nearly 12,500 members and industry representatives in attendance.

Maria Hernandez Rivero with her research poster on Android Malware

In the lead-up to the convention, there was anticipation surrounding the growing attendance numbers. Despite logistical challenges, the turnout was impressive, with a commendable number of students making the journey, considering the distance and cost. Notably, the convention featured a standout presentation from Maria Hernandez Rivero, a student from UT’s chapter who competed in the research competition.

“At the national convention, I presented my research on Android malware, focusing on using convolutional neural networks (CNNs) and transformers to categorize opcode sequences of Android applications as either malware or not,” Rivero said. “My findings emphasized CNNs’ superior performance in handling long sequences, a crucial aspect of malware detection.”

Rivero’s achievements extended beyond her research presentation. She engaged in valuable networking opportunities, including attending Microsoft’s “Latina Leaders in Cybersecurity” panel, where she interacted with industry experts like Laura Machado de Wright from Microsoft, enriching her understanding and connections in cybersecurity.

Remarkably, Rivero’s success went beyond the convention hall. She received internship offers from both Medtronic and Chevron, while also being awarded a scholarship for the academic year 2023-2024. This scholarship, a collaboration between Chevron and SHPE, significantly supports Maria’s academic pursuits.

Brandon Moreira attended the SHPE National Convention for the first time. He emphasized the invaluable conversations with engineers and the advice received about career progression, making the convention an incredible experience.

“The value of attending the convention was more than I could’ve asked for, and the opportunities that come from this will have a long-lasting, positive effect on my life and career,” Moreira said.

Jeremy Myers summed up the impact of SHPE Nationals on his professional journey: “SHPE Nationals was really an eye-opening experience for me, especially seeing an entire convention center filled with fellow Hispanic engineers. I was expecting to meet new people, gain valuable connections professionally and socially, as well as gain needed advice, but what I received from the convention was far beyond what I expected. The connections and advice are something that I see as irreplaceable, and the sheer size of the convention was mind-blowing. SHPE Nationals has changed the trajectory of my professional development, and I hope to be able to attend again in future years.”

SHPE Nationals 2023 transcended expectations, weaving together stories of academic achievement, professional growth, and community building. As the echoes of the convention linger, they resonate as a testament to the collective strength and potential of Latinos and Hispanics in STEM, further reinforcing SHPE’s mission and the enduring impact it leaves on its members.

“The SHPE National in SLC was an amazing experience for the UT chapter. This was the furthest we have traveled in the past four years,” chapter member Sarah Godfrey said. “I saw so much leadership growth in the chapter and watched a bond form that will carry the chapter for the next few years. I am so thankful to the university for their support in this endeavor and hope our chapter continues to send students.”