11 Latina Inventors in Honor of Women Inventors Month

From Ellen Ochoa to Maria Artunduaga, these Latina inventors have revolutionized their industries with their work

Latina inventors 2024

Photos: Cartier Women's Initiative; NASA; Rock Health

February celebrates Black History Month but it’s also the month dedicated to women inventors and women of color in particular don’t get enough credit for their inventions. Even within our community, the most common inventors that get the spotlight are men, and often Latina innovators don’t get the recognition and credit they deserve. Yet over the years, Latinas have broken significant ground in many fields including health, science, and engineering. For example, did you know that a Latina created a device to monitor respiratory activity in the lungs, an algorithm to monitor type 2 diabetes, and a 3D printer that can print functional biological tissues and organs? That’s why we created this list, to celebrate all the amazing Latina inventors who deserve their flowers and who have changed the world with every one of their inventions, patents, or designs. Read on to learn more about 11 Latina inventors you should know about.

Optical System Devices: Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa
Photo: NASA
Credit: NASA | Courtesy

You might know Ellen Ochoa as the first Latina in space who also flew on three NASA Space Shuttle missions. But did you know that she’s also an inventor? Before working for NASA, she studied at Stanford and she began designing optical systems that would analyze and hypothesize about objects in space. Today, she is credited for co-inventing three patents under the optical system device umbrella: an optical inspection system to inspect objects, an optical object recognition system to identify objects, and a system to decrease distortion and noise removal in images taken of objects. As a result of her inventions, she’s completely redefined NASA’s process of space imagery capture, giving them the tools to take photos in space with fine detail to learn more about the solar system.

Alzheimer’s Molecule: Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Latina inventors 2024 Lydia Villa-Komaroff
Photo: Medium

Lydia Villa-Komaroff is a molecular and cellular biologist of Mexican descent, notably the third Mexican American woman to ever receive a science-focused doctorate degree. In addition to this landmark milestone, she made significant strides with her DNA research in the ’70s. Using molecular biology technology, she discovered that certain bacterial cells could be used to generate insulin, and with her team, continued to make important contributions to insulin research. She also discovered a molecule that causes damage to brain cells and is now known to be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. Today, her research continues to help researchers work toward preventing and treating the disease.

Invasive Amebiasis Diagnosis: María del Socorro Flores González

Latina inventors 2024 María del Socorro Flores González
Photo: WIPO (CR: Liliana Coria)

María del Socorro Flores González is a scientist in the field of medicine who studied invasive amebiasis for 20 years. This is a disease that causes microscopic parasites to infect the intestines and is most common in crowded areas with contaminated food/water and poor sanitation. In collaboration with her team, González invented a simple diagnostic test that detects invasive amebiasis in its early stages, which is key to treating and surviving the disease. As it affects more than 500 million people annually, she has saved thousands of lives and received the Women Inventors and Innovators Award in the Latin America region for her work.

Sylvee: Maria Artunduaga

Latina inventors 2024 Maria Artunduaga
Photo: Rock Health

Colombian inventor Maria Artunduaga launched her career taking a non-traditional path. She started as a plastic surgery student at the University of Chicago Medicine and went on to become a reconstructive plastic surgeon for children. But then her grandmother died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which constricts the airways and makes it difficult to breathe. Because there’s no way to monitor lung function outside of a hospital with a machine called a plethysmograph, the mortality rate for COPD patients is high. As a result, Artunduaga created Sylvee, a device that monitors the respiratory system through acoustics. It attaches to the chest and lower ribcage, injects sound into the thoracic cavity, listens to what it hears, and monitors changes in the sound, length, and quality of the breath, similar to a sensor to monitor glucose or a hearing aid for tinnitus. As of 2022, she is in the prototype and testing stage and hopes to make it affordable and available on the market soon, especially for low-income and working-class families.

Diabetes Algorithm: Nélida López

Latina inventors 2024 Nélida López
Photo: Biomedical Engineering Network

Originally from San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Nélida López is a groundbreaking researcher in the field of type 2 diabetes. After studying mechatronic engineering at the Technological Institute of San Luis Potosí, she earned a doctorate from the Institute’s Control and Dynamic Systems department. Currently, she is developing a control algorithm to help patients living with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes patients can use a device to control insulin levels in the body, though these are often only reserved for those with type 1 diabetes. López is focused on developing a patent for a device that would do the same for type 2, using a mathematical algorithm to analyze the metabolic pathways of type 2 diabetes. In combination with good eating and lifestyle choices, she hopes to change how type 2 diabetes is treated and monitored in patients all over the world.

Bioplastic process: Gabriela González and Mixara Muñoz 

Latina inventors 2024 Gabriela González and Mixara Muñoz 
Photo: Conecta

Gabriela González and Mixara Muñoz are two science students from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico who formed their own company, Yekuali, and invented a process that turns cigarette butts into bioplastic. The pair was motivated by their desire to reduce the number of cigarette butts that are not only discarded irresponsibly in public places but also contribute to air and ocean pollution and climate change. But what many may not know is that cigarette butts are degradable and recyclable. As a result, González and Muñoz worked with local businesses and institutions to sell and rent collection containers to separate cigarette butts from other trash, which are then taken back to the laboratory to be turned into bioplastic. From there, they make and sell ashtrays and drink coasters, as well as other materials, using the new bioplastic material. They’ve even installed containers in public parks, furthering their mission to reduce cigarette butt pollution.

3D Printer: Dr. Grisel Trujillo

Latina inventors 2024 Grissel Trujillo de Santiago
Photo: Tecnológico de Monterrey

A professor at the School of Engineering and Sciences at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Dr. Grisel Trujillo is an inventor who has earned a master’s and PhD in Biotechnology. Her scientific explorations focus on biomaterials engineering, biofabrication technology, bioprinting, and tissue engineering. Though she didn’t invent the 3D printer as we know it today, she owns a patent for a 3D printer that could print functional biological tissues and organs for transplant patients, rather than waiting on a list for years for an organ to be donated or expecting a loved one to donate one. Her invention will completely change how transplant patients are treated and will undoubtedly increase the mortality rate for people who need these life-saving surgeries.

Solar-Powered Water Heater: Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López

Latina inventors 2024 Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López
Photo: WLRN

Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López is a child prodigy from Chiapas, Mexico who, at eight years old, became the youngest person to ever receive Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) science prize, which recognizes women’s contributions to science. Starting from when she was four, López took part in many scientific workshops and competitions for intellectually advanced children hosted by Mexico’s PAUTA, or Adopt a Talent Program. The program is particularly geared toward children from low-income families who might otherwise miss out on opportunities to exercise their extraordinary abilities. During the program, López invented a solar-powered water heater using found materials including empty PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles, cable ties, a black hose, and glass doors from a broken cooler to trap heat from the sun. With her father’s help, she was even able to install it on top of the roof and heat the bath water in her family’s house. Not only is it a simple, cost-effective invention, but it also negates the need for people to chop down trees and burn firewood to heat their water, thus reducing waste, saving the local environment, and helping her neighbors and others living in extreme poverty.

Holacode: Marcela Torres

Latina inventors 2024 Marcela Torres
Photo: Cartier Women’s Iniative

Marcela Torres is a software developer who took notice of the huge unemployment problem in Mexico as a young student. Despite the huge number of job vacancies in the software development industry, there simply weren’t enough qualified candidates, let alone people with the knowledge to apply for such jobs in the first place. To solve the problem, she founded a start-up called Holacode, which offers software development education for Mexican migrants and refugees. Through the five-month program, students learn coding programs such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, have access to full scholarships, three meals a day, and socio-emotional support. She hopes to make technological education more accessible and open to all, even if they have no prior technological knowledge, which isn’t a requirement for application. As a result of her work, 300 migrants and refugees have learned to code and she was recognized as one of MIT Technology Review’s Latin American Innovators Under 35.

Ecological Water Filtration: María Isabel Amorín

Latina inventors 2024 María Isabel Amorín
Photo: Innovators Under 35

María Isabel Amorín is a Guatemalan chemist who saw a huge problem in her country’s clothing industry, as it generates huge amounts of greenhouse emissions, chemical waste, and water pollution, which has already affected many rivers in Guatemala. In response, Amorín invented an ecological water filtration system using a natural polymer filter made out of shrimp shells, which can absorb clothing dyes and treat contaminated water. Designed for hand-crafted textile production, the filter recirculates the water and absorbs dye particles. Thanks to Guatemala’s thriving shrimp industry, she is guaranteed access to shrimp shells that would otherwise go to waste, recycling important ecological materials that also benefit the local and national economies.

Enviro: Mariel Pérez Carrillo

Latina inventors 2024 Mariel Pérez Carrillo
Photo: Technology Review

Mariel Pérez Carrillo is a Mexican biochemical engineer and entrepreneur who was inspired by her trips to the countryside where she spoke to local farmers and discovered that they had no idea about the state of their crop or soil, leaving much of their production to chance. To help them increase their crop production, improve yields, and reduce waste, she invented Enviro, a device that uses sensors to measure temperature, humidity, conductivity, pH, and salinity in order to identify soil conditions and climate. Using this information, the device can offer personalized recommendations to reduce crop loss and remove the need for agricultural pesticides and chemicals that only contaminate the soil. She has already completely changed agricultural production for many local farmers, who can now better support their families, and stimulated the agricultural industry on a national level.

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