Hispanic Heritage Month: UWS Professor Raising Awareness on Plastic Pollution | www.WDIO.com

Hispanic Heritage Month: UWS Professor Raising Awareness on Plastic Pollution

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 11, 2019 06:41 PM

Hispanic Heritage Month is about recognizing the contributions that Hispanic and Latino Americans have made in the United States. Lorena Rios Mendoza is known for her environmental role in the Twin Ports and across country.

Rios Mendoza is an associate professor at UWS that teaches chemistry. She is dedicated to making a difference and raising awareness on being mindful of our environment.

She is well-known in Superior for inspiring her students in the classes she teaches at UWS, which focus on chemistry and environmental pollution.

“She teaches more then just a class in a textbook, she teaches us how this relates to your real life,” said Chia’an Lin, a UWS student who takes classes with Mendoza.

“The most important thing for me is to prepare students to be my future colleagues,” said Rios Mendoza.

Rios Mendoza said she like UWS because it’s a small university that allows her to have more contact and communcation with her students. She said she knows them all by name.

Raising awareness on the environmental issues in our oceans and Great Lakes has been a great passion of hers for years. She started this research in 2003.

“We went to the Great Lakes to collect samples and we found microscopic pellets that we said is from cosmetic products,” said Rios Mendoza. “This grabbed my attention and I started working on it because the smaller the size of the particle means it can concentrate more toxic compounds.”

Rios Mendoza’s research on microplastic pollution has received national and international attention. She was one of the first to present the effects of toxic compounds in the Great Lakes. She's traveled all over the country to present her research. This year, she went to Belgium to participate in a science panel. 

"I’m a Mexican representing the United States in microplastic in a scientific panel in Europe,” said Rios Mendoza.

Last year, Rios Mendoza was recognized with the UWS Outstanding Woman of Color in Education award for her leadership in making significant and lasting contributions to her community.

"We need to tell people plastic isn’t just garbage. It disappears because you don’t see it but we have a problem in nature with the plastic. We need to learn to recycle," said Rios Mendoza.

The Duluth City Council discussed the possibility of adding a 5 cent fee to plastic bags at retailers this week. Rios Mendoza said it would be a good step to eliminate and reduce the use of plastic.

“We feel the obligation to use plastic bags because it’s free but when you pay for it, you reduce the amount and this is good. We need to send the message to people that we are the source, we are the problem by using the plastic,” said Rios Mendoza.

Students and community members admire her dedication as a professor and advocate on protecting and caring for the environment.

"She’s a good professor to do research with and she can bring you to let you grow more than you know,” said Lin.

“It’s a nice recognition. We are doing a lot of work and are minorities,” said Rios Mendoza.

To learn more about Rios Mendoza and what she teaches at UWS, click here.


Alejandra Palacios

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