Nuclear scientist at Argonne National Laboratory helping pave way for Latino students in STEM

'There's a deficit of Latino talent in the STEM careers and the US is suffering from it'

ByJaisol Martinez and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Nuclear scientist helps pave way for Latino students in STEM
Nuclear chemical engineer Michael Kaminski of he Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, is helping inspire Latino students to study science.

LEMONT, Ill. (WLS) -- "When I was going through school. I benefitted from Latino scholarships," said Michael Kaminski. "I said to myself at some point I'm going to try and give back and make sure that other kids have the same benefit."

Kaminski is now a Senior Nuclear Chemical Engineer at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont. And he's giving back by leading a cohort of other Hispanic scientists who help promote STEM education for Latino students.

"My mom immigrated from Mexico when she was about 17 years old and came to work on Chicago's south side where she met my dad," said Kaminski. "I see their faces light up when I mention it and they immediately identify with that."

Kaminski specializes in areas of national security.

RELATED: Urgent need for Spanish-speaking, bicultural Latino nurses in Chicago, country

"If someone releases toxic, radio activity into the environment, I'm there to figure out how do we clean it up so that we can get back to living in that environment without any harm," explained Kaminski.

"Last week, I joined in a field trip to Argonne with Latino students from Gompers Junior High School in Joliet," said ABC7 Meteorologist Jaisol Martinez. "Kaminski gave us a glimpse of what he does by showing us how to make a nuclear fuel pellet with fake uranium." "We learned these tiny pellets are used to generate electricity."

"See how small it is," Kaminski asked the room. "The center of this gets to about 1,100 degrees Celsius inside a nuclear reactor and it's used to boil the water."

Kaminski said visits like these are so important.

"There's a deficit of Latino talent in the STEM careers and the United States is suffering from it," said Kaminski.

According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanic people make up just 8% of the STEM workforce.

"At institutions like Argonne National Laboratory, our job is to tackle the most difficult problems that face humanity," said Kaminski. "And so for difficult problems we need the best people working on it and the best solutions come from a diversity of ideas and a diversity of backgrounds."