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LOFT Spotlight: Rocio Garay

Hispanic Heritage Foundation

By Iliana Sanchez-Meraz

Rocio Garay is a 2009 Chicago region Hispanic Heritage Youth Award recipient in Engineering & Mathematics. Through the help of the Youth Award, Rocio was able to attend Carnegie Mellon University, her dream school, as a Chemical Engineering major. Rocio was extremely active during her years as an undergrad in organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Spanish and Latin Student Association, and the Carnegie Mellon Ballroom Dance Club, to name a few. She supplemented her academic experience by attending professional conferences and participating in SHPE’s Extreme Engineering Challenge and HENAAC’s College Bowl. Rocio made sure to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to her.  Rocio served as a Resident Assistant and Teaching Assistant for the Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science, a program that motivates minorities in STEM fields. She volunteered for Circulo Juvenil, a program that develops the language and cultural skills of native and heritage Hispanic children.

During her time as an undergrad, Rocio also participated in numerous research and fellowship programs. NASA’s Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology program not only gave her valuable work experience and life-long memories and friendships but also sparked her initial interest in research. With first-hand experience in government, academic, and industry research, Rocio ultimately discovered that industry research attracted her the most. Rocio graduated in May of 2013 and soon after joined a rotational program with Braskem America, a polyolefin company specializing in sustainable chemistry.  Her first role on the Innovation and Technology team focused on product technology development. Her current role is more customer-facing as part of the technical service group.

Rocio has accomplished a great deal despite experiencing bumps in the road. The economic downturn of 2009-2010 left her family with significant financial problems. These issues, however, did not deter Rocio as she became even more focused and motivated. Above all else, family has been her biggest motivation.


Rocio strongly believes that everyone should have complete confidence in his or her abilities. Doubt and second-guessing can lead to many missed opportunities. She credits her success to always putting herself out there and taking advantage of every program, internship, or fellowship that came her way. For example, Rocio applied and was chosen to attend a LOFT Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., which later led to her being recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” in accordance to Hispanic Heritage month. One opportunity can open doors to several others, and Rocio encourages everyone to take advantage of as many as possible.

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