UTRGV continues celebration of International Women’s Day

BY Vicky Brito

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concluded its celebration of International Women’s Day on Thursday when the Office of Global Engagement honored Andrea Tellez-Silva as the 2016 Outstanding International Female Student on the Brownsville Campus.

Tellez-Silva, from Mexico City, is the second student to be named an UTRGV Outstanding International Female Student. Yuanqing Li, a doctoral student in business administration, received the award Tuesday on the Edinburg Campus.

The award includes a $1,000 scholarship.

Tellez-Silva is a senior physics major with a special research interest in analog electronics and signal processing, with emphasis in high frequency system applications like antennas and lasers.

“It feels really great,” Tellez-Silva said of the award. “I would like to thank my family and my close friends, who always support me.”

She accepted the award in memory of her mentor, Dr. Cristina Torres, a research professor in the UT Brownsville Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, who died last year just one day after International Women’s Day.

“She believed in me,” Tellez-Silva said. “And she believed in all women in the physics field, and all women not in the physics field.”

Tellez-Silva previously interned with the California Institute of Technology at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, more commonly known as LIGO. She was one of the youngest of the 1,000 scientists who worked together in the recent discovery of gravitational waves that proved Einstein’s theory of relativity.

She will be the first woman in her family to graduate from college, and hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in electrical engineering.

The ceremony also honored Dr. Soma Mukherjee, UTRGV assistant professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as the UTRGV Outstanding International Female Faculty.

Mukherjee, a native of India, also was involved with the LIGO gravitational waves research discovery. She has co-authored more than 70 research papers in highly ranked international journals, and was hired as a faculty member at UTRGV legacy institution UTB in 2003.

Mukherjee spoke of global gender equality, a value that was first instilled in her by her father.

“At work, I am neither a man nor a woman,” Mukherjee said. “I’m a scientist and professor.”

She said the majority of the leadership at UTRGV is predominately female, which Mukherjee says fosters innovation.

“Acknowledging the potential in women helps drive up equality in the workforce, increases the talent pool and offers a variety of skills, experience and insight,” she said. “Society needs to access top talent, and you cannot do that by ignoring 51 percent of the population.”

The event, co-sponsored by UTRGV’s Women’s Faculty Network, Office of Global Engagement, College of Fine Arts, and International Admissions and Student Services, recognizes the hard work and accomplishments of a top female international student and faculty members.

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, past, present and future.