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SMU alumna, archaeologist and paleontologist Myria Perez, is among those being honored with a statue at NorthPark Center

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: June 2, 2021

Jennifer Stimpson was 9 when she decided she wanted to be a scientist. She grew up in Oak Cliff working summers in her family’s West Dallas compounding pharmacy, where she watched her father — Stimpson’s first science mentor — do more than just dispense medications for his customers.

“As he was making these medicines for folks, he would talk to them about health care and health care practices, and he made sure that they recognized what they needed to do to get better,” says Stimpson, a veteran science teacher in Dallas for two decades. “So, for me, I learned from my father how to pay it forward.”

Stimpson, the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Northern Iowa with an advanced STEM degree, is a chemist, award-winning educator, community volunteer — and what a scientist looks like.

She is among the more than 120 “ambassadors” highlighted in “#IfThenSheCan — The Exhibit,” a collection of statues of female STEM innovators on display at NorthPark Center representing the professional possibilities waiting for young girls who pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The statues are what Stimpson calls a “beautiful intersection of art and science.”

The women, including 10 from North Texas, were selected by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in a multi-layered initiative to help ignite conversation and bring about a cultural shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.

Inspiration can be found at every vibrant orange acrylic turn of the NorthPark Center display and throughout the accompanying digital collection of free resources.

Featured Texas ambassadors are engineers, medical doctors, mathematicians, educators, inventors, a geneticist, a health technologist, an aviation maintenance technician, an archaeologist and paleontologist Myria Perez, a fossil preparator at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

“Honestly, I still can’t believe it,” Perez says of her full-length digitally generated silhouette. “I mean, it’s me, and life-size, and 3-D, and I’ve got my lab apron on and my scribe, all my tools that I use in my hand. I just really hope that somebody goes up and thinks, ‘Hey, that looks like me,’ and then learns a little bit more and could see themselves being a fossil preparator or paleontologist.”