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Representation in STEM: Esposito, Dr. Lauren

A digital conduit for student-curated content presenting the contributions and challenges faced by underrepresented prominent figures in STEM. Physical banners were placed on display at Baldwin Wallace in spring 2022 with supporting programming scheduled.

Dr. Lauren Esposito

Dr. Lauren Esposito with a scorpion in her lab. 

“Visibility doesn’t just make the queer-in-STEM community happier and more productive—it creates recognition of the accomplishments we’ve made not in spite of our identities, but because of them.”

Dr. Lauren Esposito gained an appreciation for nature during her childhood. She was born in El Paso, Texas but spent lots of time in the Bahamas, where she spent most of her time exploring outside (Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito). Dr. Esposito completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at El Paso and furthered her studies by completing her master’s and doctoral dissertation in arachnology at the American Museum of Natural History through the City University of New York (Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito). Arachnology is the study of arachnids, including spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites, among other organisms.  

Dr. Esposito chose to focus on scorpions. Her current research involves evolution, biodiversity, and conservation. She spends her time in the field in places like the Caribbean, Central America, and South America (Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito). In 2017, Dr. Esposito discovered three new species of club-tailed scorpions from South America: Ischnotelson peruassu, Physoctonus striatus, and Rhopalurus ochoai. The discoveries were made through DNA analysis and comparison between the physical characteristics of club-tailed scorpions found in the field to better scientists’ understanding of the group and their differences (Esposito et al. 2017). Additionally, in 2018, she discovered a new species of ghost scorpion in Penang Forest in Malaysia (Dasgupta 2018). Other than discovering new species, Dr. Esposito studies scorpion venom, its evolution, and the possible applications it could have, for example, in cancer research (Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito).  

In 2014, Dr. Esposito founded the nonprofit Islands & Seas. The project aims to create field stations on various islands in the Caribbean and Latin America to act as conservation centers where students, scientists, and locals can work together to promote sustainability in the area. Dr. Esposito says, “First, the locals need to know what they have. And before they can know what they have, we need scientists and students to conduct biodiversity surveys because nobody knows what’s there” (Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito).  

In 2018, Dr. Esposito founded 500 Queer Scientists to promote the visibility of queer scientists and their research and create a welcoming community where scientists can feel comfortable being their authentic selves. Dr. Esposito says, “I think for many queer people, we fight daily battles through micro- and macro-aggressions just to gain a seat at the STEM 

table” (Bean 2021). Queer people already face discrimination from the world; they should not have to face more from a community that is supposed to support them. On the importance of the project, Dr. Esposito says, “Visibility doesn’t just make the queer-in-STEM community happier and more productive—it creates recognition of the accomplishments we’ve made not in spite of our identities, but because of them.”

Not only does 500 Queer Scientists support scientists already in STEM, but it also gives hope to young queer kids who want to see themselves represented in their prospective fields. It has done that for me, and I know it will do that for so many more students as the project grows. I want to thank Dr. Lauren Esposito for her work in STEM, making it more inclusive for women and queer scientists alike. Due to her work, I see myself and other people like me represented in STEM. 

Contributing BW student:

Sydney Broucek: Biology major, Forensic Science minor


Works Cited:

Bean, Denieka. “A Talk with Dr. Lauren Esposito, Founder of 500 Queer Scientists.” AIChE: The Global Home of Chemical Engineers, 24 June 2021, https://www.aiche.org/chenected/2021/06/talk-dr-lauren-esposito-founder-500-queer-scientists.  

Dasgupta, Shreya. “New 'Ghost' Scorpion among Several Species Recorded for the First Time in Malaysian Rainforest.” Mongabay Environmental News, 4 Jan. 2018, https://news.mongabay.com/2018/01/new-ghost-scorpion-among-several-species-recorded-for-the-first-time-in-malaysian-rainforest/.  

Esposito, Lauren., Yamaguti, Humberto., Souza, Cláudio., Pinto-Da-Rocha, Ricardo., Prendini, Lorenzo. “Systematic Revision of the Neotropical Club-Tailed Scorpions, Physoctonus, Rhopalrus, and Troglorhopalurus, Revalidation of Heteroctenus, and Descriptions of Two New Genera and Three New Species (Buthidae: Rhopalurusinae)” Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 2017(415), 1-136, https://doi.org/10.1206/0003-0090-415.1.1 

“Science Heroes: Lauren Esposito.” California Academy of Sciences, California Academy of Sciences, https://www.calacademy.org/learn-explore/science-heroes/lauren-esposito.