Alina Nazareth

Degree: Ph.D. in Psychology (Developmental Science)

College/School: School Integrated Science and Humanity; College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Alina Nazareth came to FIU determined to close the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). With a bachelor’s in electronics engineering from Nagpur University and a master’s in human resource management from T.A. Pai Management Institute, both institutions in India, Alina was painfully aware of the high male-to-female ratio in STEM classrooms. She also knew her background made her an ideal candidate to study sex differences in spatial ability — how we make sense of space, shapes, sizes and recreate patterns.

Under the guidance of Professor Shannon Pruden Dick, Alina used her FIU University Graduate School Dissertation Year Fellowship to study nearly 400 college students and how their minds function differently in specific spatial tasks. Research consistently shows significant sex differences in spatial tasks, with males outperforming females. Through her research, Alina has found part of the reason is because of how we play as children. Boys are often exposed to more spatial experiences through sports and more complicated toys, while girls are exposed to less challenging forms of play.

By reducing the gender differences in spatial ability, Alina knows it is possible to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM. Upon graduation, Alina will join the NSF-funded Spatial Intelligence Learning Center. Impressed with Alina’s work, one of the nation’s top spatial thinking scientists has held the position for Alina for more than six months to give her time to complete her work at FIU.