Olivia Newton: Paving the Way for Latinas in STEM
Latinas hold less than 2% of STEM occupations, but Olivia Newton is breaking barriers and paving a path for people of diverse backgrounds in the world of technology. As a second-generation Mexican-American, three-time UCF graduate, and postdoctoral research associate at UCF Cognitive Science Laboratory, Newton’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable.
The first in her family to go to college, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in modeling and simulation (M&S) before graduating with her Ph.D. in modeling and simulation. Recently, she won the 2022-23 University Award for Outstanding Dissertation.
“My mother instilled in me a love of learning and the value of education from a very early age,” says Newton. “My family has provided me with a great deal of emotional support throughout my academic career and, where possible, they have also provided me with financial support.”
As a computational social scientist involved in studying social behaviors using data analysis, Newton hopes to increase contributions from people of diverse backgrounds in the world of technology. Her award-winning dissertation titled “Modelling the Effects of Diversity and Corporations on Participation in Free/Free and Open Source Software Ecosystems” was presented to companies including Google and Meta at the International Conference on Software Engineering where it won an award for Best Article grant. Her research examining team cognitive processes and products has been supported by organizations such as NASA.
As dedicated as she is to her own educational and professional goals, Newton finds time to inspire and mentor other students who have overcome financial, social, or educational obstacles to get into college.
Newton grew up with two brothers in Winter Haven, Florida. Her mother is a service worker in Orlando’s tourism industry while her father is a maintenance mechanic at Coca Cola where he has worked for ten years. Strong values of compassion and hard work instilled in their children by her parents were attributes that Newton credits for her success.
Based on the article, “Newton is paving the way for Latinas in STEM, inspiring underrepresented youth to excel in the tech world.” Her dedication and passion for her work serve as an inspiration for young women everywhere who aspire to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Olivia Newton is a true trailblazer and role model who continues to break down barriers and make a difference in the world of technology.