Harvard University graduate and Colton native inspires Inland Empire to world of science

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Dr. Adriana Briscoe, holding plaque, is an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at University of California, Irvine.
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Dr. Adriana Briscoe is not only a Colton native…she is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard universities and currently, she is an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at University of California, Irvine.

Briscoe, who was born in Hawaii, graduated from Colton High School in 1988; at the time she was one of approximately two dozen students who were planning to go to university.

Dr. Adriana Briscoe, right, pictured with Dr. Aide Macias-Muñoz, a first-generation college graduate originally from Mexico (now a U.S. citizen), along with Macias-Muñoz’s parents.

“I was inspired to get a higher education by my mother and great-grandfather who were both teachers. My father was a librarian and my grandmother always admired education; my grandmother actually went back to school and received a bachelor’s degree in her 60’s and became a teacher for one year,” said Briscoe.

After high school, Briscoe graduated from Stanford University with bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and philosophy; she also received a master’s degree in philosophy.

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Through her journey, Briscoe overcame much adversity along the way.

“As a Latina, I felt that my abilities were constantly being questioned. As a teenager, I was ambitious, but I was not super confident. I remember a specific professor who interviewed me when I applied to Harvard, he compared me to his son and it was a weird thing; he told me that his son was more competitive than I was. I felt like there was no way I would be accepted into the university,” continued Briscoe.

In short, Briscoe was accepted to Harvard University, where she studied and graduated in 1998, with a doctorate in biology.

“I want women and everyone in the Inland Empire to know that the field of science is an option for you. I think you have to try things in life, do not assume you will know what you want to do right when you graduate from high school. Your passion for those things develops as a consequence of doing them. You have to be open to trying lots of things,” Briscoe said.

Years later, Briscoe admits that at times she still feels uncomfortable being an under-represented minority in the workforce.

“Currently, I’m one of the few Latina scientists in my field. At University of California, Irvine I’m also one of the few Latina science teachers,” said Briscoe.

Briscoe also recommends The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science as a resource to students of color. “If there is any additional advice I can give anyone out there, it would be to read as much as you can. Ask as many questions as you can and talk to your professors. We’re here to help,” concluded Briscoe.

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