Jennifer Morales comes from a place where feminist role models are rare and detainees are prevalent. She’s from Mission, Texas, a city in Hidalgo County—one of the immigration epicenters in the United States. “Whenever you hear about families getting separated at the border, they’re probably talking about Hidalgo,” she said. It’s economically depressed, politically unstable, and, according to Morales, extremely traditional in regards to gender roles.
“Where I’m from, a woman gets married. The end. You don’t go to school. You aren’t expected to do anything,” she said.
No one, she said, expected her to get a PhD in the male-dominated field of bioengineering, an accomplishment she achieved at Northeastern in August.
Joined by fellow bioengineering PhD graduate Jaclyn Lock, she has provided support and guidance to dozens of women and girls during her time at Northeastern. And with every young scholar she counsels, Morales thinks back to her own role models, the educators who helped her become an example for young women who want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Morales served as vice president of Northeastern’s chapter of Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, which helps aspiring female scientists and engineers reach their potential.
She first met Lock during the group meetings. Lock mentored girls from Boston who came to Northeastern to learn about science and spend time with women in the industry.
In 2015, Lock and Morales were recognized by Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun as Valued Student Leaders for their contributions to the organization.
Morales and Lock said that they look to each other for support. They’re both minorities, as women in engineering, and they both enjoy mentoring young women.
Lock said their friendship helped her succeed in bioengineering. “Meeting Morales was really comforting because I could relate to her,” Lock said. “Sometimes it takes strong women to tell other women that they’re strong too.”