Cool Jobs: Becoming a scientist in the face of hardship

Cool Jobs: Becoming a scientist in the face of hardship
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    [Music]
    Kids in my position are typically not
    surrounded by motivating factors. You know...
    Environments that promote, you know, uh, inquiry.
    Diogenes Placencia grew up in the South Bronx in New York.
    At one point, he and his mom lived with 20 other people
    in a single-room apartment. For Dio and many others,
    the road to becoming a scientist included many
    obstacles beyond just getting a college education,
    let alone a PhD.
    If you grew up how I grew up,
    you're worried about survival.
    You know, are you going to make the rent next month?
    Are the food stamps coming in?
    That actually happened to us. It was... not a fun time.
    Still, there are many inspiring stories of successful
    scientists who came from humble beginnings.
    Today, Dio is a research chemist
    at the U.S. Naval Research Lab.
    Here at the lab, I develop materials for infrared cameras
    and sensors, um, basically to help out our soldiers
    in the field to complete their missions…
    The type of work that I do leads, has led,
    to all sorts of things. Like OLED TVs. Quantum dot TVs.
    I mean, everything from water filtration systems to
    space applications. I mean, it's... it's everywhere.
    Knowing that, you know, the soldiers that we're
    helping out — our Navy, and our corpsmen —
    sort of just have the best technologies to accomplish
    their mission. Um, that really means a lot to me.
    His interest in science piqued in high school.
    Everything was going pretty well,
    and then I took Chemistry.
    Uh, it sounds like one of those, like, "and then I saw her..."
    [Laughs] Right, like... right... [Laughs]
    Chemistry basically spoke to me and allowed me
    to understand how things work.
    So Dio decided to pursue Chemistry in college.
    Getting a college education is expensive
    for pretty much everybody.
    But the costs are especially hard
    on lower income students.
    I got some scholarships but I still needed
    to come up with quite a bit of money...
    Now we're talking, maybe 15 grand, you know,
    out of pocket. For somebody...
    You know, my mom didn't even have a savings account.
    And I think that's where that, sort of, pressure to perform
    came...Because I knew that, that's that's something
    that was waiting for me at the end of all of that.
    Dio says that mentors were a huge factor in helping him become a scientist.
    I mean, I can not overstate how important it has been to
    have somebody there to sort of guide you along the way...
    If adults are listening to this, I think that they have to try
    to be as encouraging of that inquiry mindset.
    Um, that's key. Because if, if they don't hear the
    encouragement, saying "Hey you know you should really
    think about this..." or "Yeah, that's great!"
    You know, just positivity, because you're surrounded by
    so much negativity.
    Dio also said that coming from a disadvantaged
    background gave him the grit and determination that
    drove him throughout his career.
    We say in Spanish, there's a word in Spanish... "superar."
    Well, you know, to to overcome. You know, if you have that, that desire to overcome
    whatever situation that you're in...You'll be fine.
    And just keep your head down.
    Work as hard as you can.
    And you just... grind. That's it.
    [Music]
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