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SACNAS Honors Distinguished Awardees at 2020 National Diversity in STEM Conference

Awardees to be recognized October 23 at 2020 SACNAS — The National Diversity in STEM Conference, taking place virtually for the first time in conference history


The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans inAl Science (SACNAS) is pleased to announce the recipients of the SACNAS Distinguished Awards at 2020 SACNAS – The National Diversity in STEM Conference, which will take place virtually for the first time in conference history from October 19 to 24, 2020. This year’s awardees are true examples of SACNAS’ mission, having demonstrated an unmatched dedication to excellence in science, mentoring, and teaching throughout their careers. These outstanding individuals were nominated by students and colleagues who were impacted by their work and selected by a committee of peers. 

“Every year we recognize two excellent scientists that have made significant contributions to their field and that have a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion in STEM. This year we honor Javier Rojo, PhD and Lorenza Levy, PhD, inspiring professionals who embody the mission of SACNAS,” said SACNAS President Dr. Sonia Zárate. 

Professor Bill Velez of Arizona State University said of Dr. Rojo: “One of the amazing things about Dr. Rojo is his willingness to take risks. He accepts students who don’t have a great GPA or who do not have a substantial background in mathematics. Yet his data is enviable and shows that in spite of this, his RUSIS (Research Experience of Undergraduate Students) graduates are pursuing postgraduate studies. In fact, 34 have already completed doctorates. I have heard over and over again from the students that I send to RUSIS that it was an amazing experience. 

Dr. Alberto Vasquez of University of California, San Diego said of Dr. Levy: “Lorenza challenges her students to think critically while encouraging them to keep true to their Latinx heritage. An archetype of concept “Representation Matters”, Lorenza demonstrates success in STEM as a woman from Mexico City, balancing the responsibilities of familial obligation and career advancement. She has written hundreds of recommendation letters for summer research programs, scholarships and transfer applications for her students and club members. Such efforts have helped students be accepted to various research programs and universities, locally and across the nation. Her students admire her, colleagues consult her, and her mentorship changes lives.” 

Since the SACNAS Distinguished Awards program was initiated in 1997, the organization has honored over 80 scientists, educators, and program directors for their commitment to, and personification of, SACNAS’ mission to help those historically underserved in STEM to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership.


Lorenza Levy, PhD 

Associate Professor, San Diego City College 

Lorenza Levy is Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at San Diego City College, where she has been since 2007. She was born in Mexico and was raised bicultural and biliterate between Mexico City and San Diego. This bicultural upbringing planted the seeds of what would blossom into her drive for social justice and equity in the STEM professions. She obtained a BS in Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University, and during her time there, was a NASA undergraduate student observer at Lowell Observatory. During her years at Lowell Observatory, she studied comet evolution and she discovered two asteroids: lorenzalevy (10938) and urquiza (11711). She continued her academic journey and obtained a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, though her research interests shifted into galactic cluster evolution. She continued as a NASA Fellow, though this time as a Harriet G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellow. While she was a graduate student, she started a family, and learned how to juggle the demands of school and motherhood. After defending her thesis, she moved to San Diego and began teaching at San Diego City College. She has dedicated her years at San Diego City College to growing their SACNAS Chapter, and creating equitable paths for all her students, while modeling balance between work and family duties. 


Javier Rojo, PhD

Korvis Professor of Statistics, Oregon State University 

Dr. Rojo received a BS in mathematics from University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), an MS in statistics from Stanford University, and a PhD in statistics from University of California at Berkeley under the direction of Erich L. Lehmann. He is currently the Korvis Professor of Statistics at Oregon State University. Dr. Rojo’s research interests include survival analysis, partial orders of distribution functions and related inference problems, extreme value theory and tail-heaviness of distributions, nonparametric function estimation, statistical decision theory, random matrices, and dimension reduction techniques.  Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Rojo was assistant professor, associate professor (1990 – 1995), and professor (1995 – 2000) of statistics at UTEP where he founded the BioStatistical Laboratory; the Seneca C. and Mary B. Weeks endowed Chair of Statistics and Chair of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Nevada at Reno where he led the successful efforts to create two new PhD. programs; Professor of Statistics at Rice University where he created Research Experience of Undergrads called RUSIS, which has had 246 participants and 40 alumni subsequently receiving their PhDsDr. Rojo is also an adjunct professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Civil Engineering department at Rice. He has held positions at Sandia Labs, The Rand Corporation, Pacific Gas and Electric, and El Paso Natural Gas Co. He is a Fellow of the following societies: American Statistical Association (ASA), Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), Royal Statistical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He received the ASA 2010 Don Owen award, and the 2018 Etta Z. Falconer awardDr. Rojo currently serves in SAMSI’s Scientific Advisory Committee, ICERM’s Education Advisory Board, and on several editorial boards and committees for various scientific societiesHe has collaborated with faculty at the Center of Mathematical Research in Guanajuato and has organized several international conferences in MéxicoDr. Rojo grew up in Ciudad Juárez, México where he dreamt about being Mickey Mantle’s successor in center field for the New York Yankees. Although he played NCAA baseball for UTEP and was selected to play in the Pan-American games representing México, his hopes for a professional career were dashed due to an injury. He now roots for the thrice NCAA Champions — OSU Beavers! 

Click here for more information on the 2020 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference. 

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For over 47 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

Today, the organization serves a growing community of over 28,000 supporters, including 8,200+ members, and 118+ student and professional chapters throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. SACNAS influences the STEM diversity movement through STEM outreach & advocacy, promotion of STEM leaders, and The SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference.  Learn more about SACNAS at, Facebook, or Twitter.