Many young children dream of digging up dinosaur bones and studying them when they grow up. That dream became a reality for Celina and Marina Suarez ’03, who were recently named to Cell Press’s Top 100 Hispanic/ Latinx Scientists in America. The scientists on this list were selected based on their scholarly achievements, mentoring excellence, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and paleontologists Celina and Marina are no exception.
Celina and Marina are twin sisters who share a love for geology and both decided to pursue careers in paleontology. The San Antonio natives each graduated from Trinity in 2003 with degrees in geosciences. They then proceeded to receive their master’s degrees from Temple University in 2005 and their doctorates from Kansas University in 2010, both in geology.
Currently, Celina is an associate professor of geosciences at University of Arkansas, and Marina is an associate professor of geology at the University of Kansas. Celina’s research focuses on how changes in the amounts of carbon in the atmosphere have influenced the evolution of land ecosystems, while Marina’s research centers on trying to understand past climate conditions based on analyzing rocks that are millions of years old.
Between the two of them, Celina and Marina have many impressive accomplishments in the field of geosciences. They have published countless articles. In 2013, Celina was named Professor of the Year at the University of Arkansas. She has also received over hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to fund her research. Similarly, Marina won a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that was accompanied with $478,000 to support her research.
Celina and Marina discovered a new species of dinosaur at a field site containing many previously undiscovered dinosaur fossils near Moab, Utah, while earning their master’s degrees. In honor of their discovery, one of the species, Geminiraptor suarezarum, was officially named after the sisters in 2011. G. suarezarum is a small troodontid—a bird-like, meat-eating dinosaur that lived in North America during the Cretaceous period about 125-130 millions of years ago. “Gemini” is the Latin word for “twins,” while “suarezarum” includes their last name.
Diversity and representation in STEM is becoming increasingly important as the U.S. becomes more and more diverse. “The world is changing quickly and we need all science hands on deck to help civilization to change with it. To understand this change, we need science to reflect the country’s demographic, which currently it is not,” Celina and Marina explain. “It is important the public sees people that look like them as experts in the field. It increases trust in scientists.”
“It is important for scientists from underserved communities to be a part of STEM because it is often these communities that are impacted the most by, for example, resource extraction,” the sisters add. “Scientific inquiry works best when you have the perspective of many people with diverse backgrounds. It makes problem solving easier.”
From dinosaurs to grants to scholarly articles, the sisters have accomplished outstanding things in the early years of their career. Congratulations to Celina and Marina on this distinguished accomplishment!