Occupation: Astronomer & Former President of the International Astronomical Union
Year born: 1940
Research Areas: Nebulae & Star Birth
"We have only this planet and we have to take care of it. It’s our responsibility to diminish pollution and to stop wars"
Silvia grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. She was encouraged by her teachers to pursue science. Her science teacher made it clear that if there were no women studying science then the contribution of half of the world’s population would be wasted. She studied physics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and then got her PhD in astronomy from University of California, Berkeley. After university, Silvia returned to Mexico to work as a research scientist.
Silvia published research on how stars start burning, fusing elements together. She also studied the material that gets thrown out of stars when they run out of fuel. In 1973, she became a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She got promoted to Director in 1998. In 2011 Silvia won the L’Oreal–UNESCO Prize for Women in Science. Her prize was for investigating the chemistry of nebulae.
From 2015 to 2018, Silvia was President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is a group of professional astronomers from all over the world. It has over 10,000 members from nearly 100 countries. The IAU does many things, including classifying and naming objects in space. Objects including planets, moons, asteroids, and stars. During her presidency, Silvia spoke at many international meetings and summits. She ensured that the IAU promoted astronomy across the globe and supported astronomers of all backgrounds to do science.
Silvia was the first Mexican woman to get a PhD in astronomy. She was the second woman and first Mexican to be President of the International Astronomical Union in its 100 year history. Silvia is passionate about motivating young people to keep studying astronomy.
Silvia enjoys sewing and makes some of her own clothes.