Dr. Karina R. Vega-Villa
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Directorate for STEM Education
Division of Equity in Excellence in STEM
Class of 2022–2023
Dr. Karina R. Vega-Villa is an Ecuadorian American scientist, educator and community leader. Before joining the U.S. National Science Foundation as a AAAS fellow, she was the director of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program and a faculty member at Wenatchee Valley College, teaching biology and chemistry. As MESA director, Vega-Villa advocated for access, education and equity in STEM for first-generation, economically underresourced and racially minoritized students and their families.
Throughout her career, Vega-Villa has focused on addressing the challenges historically excluded groups face in their educational and career development. She has led organizations centered on diversity, equity and inclusion through cultural activities and leadership-building initiatives. In 2020, Vega-Villa co-founded the Immigrant & Latinx Solidarity Group, a grassroots group in Washington state that coordinates community health initiatives run by local nonprofit, community-based and grassroots organizations. Through local, regional and state partnerships, the group addresses the health disparities within the Latinx population and ensures the development of a justice-centered and holistic plan to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vega-Villa earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences at the University of Idaho, a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from Washington State University and completed a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center conducting medical research. Before her appointment at OUHSC, Vega-Villa was the director of operations for a natural products company on the East Coast for their South American division.