Christina Ortiz conducts cutting-edge research on how to build military armor for humans that mimics the near perfect armor found on fish and reptiles.

But in 2016, she shifted her attention to another passion: transforming science and technology research to make it more socially responsible.

Ortiz reduced her commitments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she served as dean for graduate education for six years, to found and become president of Station1, a higher education nonprofit aimed at driving deep and fundamental change in STEM education and research.

She calls it socially directed science and technology.

“We’re fundamentally redesigning and reimagining the process of technological development and the core of the scientific method in the context of inclusion, equity, ethics, sustainability, and other humanistic fields such as history, philosophy, and sociology,” Ortiz said in talk at the 2020 Culture Shifting Summit. Part of Station1’s focus is making STEM fields more accessible to first-generation college students and those from low-income households and underrepresented groups.

Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, will share her vision in a talk titled “Socially-Directed Science and Technology: Design at the Intersection of History, Sustainability, and Equity with Applications to Biotechnology and Biomaterials.” The talk, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, is the first in in the 2022-23 Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series, hosted by the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. Refreshments will be available at a 5 p.m. reception.

The series is named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor who recognized the importance of bringing leading-edge scientists to Roanoke.

The public lecture will be held in the VTC auditorium at 2 Riverside Circle on the research institute’s Roanoke campus. The talk is also available via Zoom.

“Dr. Ortiz is a highly respected materials scientist who is now earnestly focused on making careers like her own accessible to more people and, at the same time, bringing the lenses of social justice and sustainability to the scientific research enterprise,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “As we continue to grow here at the research institute, we welcome Dr. Ortiz’s reminder to grow responsibly, and we’re grateful to be able to have her share her perspectives and successes with the entire community.”

Station1, headquartered in Lawrence, Massachusetts, operates student residential programs and partners with colleges and universities across the U.S. It also places students with startup companies in the Boston area.

Station1’s goal for students, Ortiz said in the 2020 talk, “is to enable them to actually interrogate the projects that they’re working on and have a foundation, when they go out and start companies or when they’re teaching as academics, that they have a rigorous foundation which to apply to redirect science and technology for social good.”

Ortiz’s honors include the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, presented at the White House by President George W. Bush, and the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship in support of U.S. Department of Defense science efforts.

She served as dean for graduate education at MIT from 2010-16, and was the founding principal investigator of the MIT University Center of Exemplary Mentoring sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

She received a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science and engineering from Cornell University.

Share this story