The Society of Hispanic Engineers Star of Tomorrow shares where a career at 3M can take you
Oct 14, 2020

Laura Lara Rodriguez, Research Specialist, discovered her love for STEM at a young age, thanks to the encouragement of those around her. Born in Colombia, her parents motivated her to work hard and nudged her towards challenging subjects that could pave the way for a career in engineering. Plus, her middle and high school teachers and mentors were inspiring and very supportive of helping advance Latino girls with an interest in STEM fields. “I am a strong believer in the power of positive influences and role models. I would not be here without my math teacher,” she says.

Today, Laura has become that role model she always looked up to by being named The Society of Hispanic Engineers’ Star of Tomorrow. The award honors those who demonstrate a commitment to technical excellence while modeling professionalism, integrity and a dedication to mentoring and community service, all attributes that can be seen throughout her impressive career and that she feels can be linked back to her parents’ example of hard work. “Both of my parents came from large families, which means that resources were not abundant. My mom oftentimes said the phrase, ‘nada es dado, todo es ganado’ or ‘nothing is given but earned.’ I remember seeing my mom wake up at four a.m. to get everything ready for the day so that she could get to work right at seven am and my dad often worked 12 hour shifts at the machine shop. They worked very hard because they wanted to make sure my sister and I could go to college,” she explains.

And go to college she did. Laura’s career journey began as an undergraduate student at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia, where she found her love of problem-solving and the impact it can have on people’s lives in the R&D world. She saw that impact for the first time in her materials science and engineering class, where she worked on bioactive coatings for stainless steel alloys that are used in orthopedic implants. “Through that experience, I realized that fundamentals and science principles can and should make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

After becoming a first-generation college graduate, she furthered her education in mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, where she found a mentor who was integral to her career. During the final year of her master’s program, he asked a simple, but huge question: what Laura wanted to do when she grew up. Her response? “Solve complex problems.”

This passion for problem solving continued when she applied to multiple PhD programs in the U.S. and received a fellowship in the chemical and biological engineering program at Iowa State University while researching cancer cell migration. As a grad student, she visited 3M’s Innovation Center for the first time and knew that’s where she wanted to start her career. “I thought it would be the perfect place for me because with so many technology platforms and applications, I could apply my knowledge from all the multidisciplinary fields I had been studying since receiving my bachelor’s degree,” she explains.

Laura joined 3M in 2014 in the Abrasive Systems Division, where she was named the technical lead for a new ceramic abrasive grain. Because of her leadership and the great effort of the cross functional team, 3M successfully launched two new product lines and Laura received three internal awards for technical innovation. She was also awarded an internal honor bestowed to less than 20 individuals annually, from a pool of 8,000+ technical employees, due to her incredible leadership for ceramic grain development.

Since then, she has held two more roles and jumped into new scientific territory as a research specialist in non-woven abrasives. Currently, Laura’s research is focused on the development of sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives for product development in non-woven abrasives, as well as process improvements to minimize waste during manufacturing, something that she has become very passionate about. “This role challenges the way we currently operate, and I am confident that 3M has the unique capacity to create solutions and technologies to solve such complex issues,” she says.

Laura’s leadership stretches beyond the technical realm, though, to another passion of hers: diversity and inclusion. In addition to playing an active role with The Society of Hispanic Engineers, she is on the executive board for Team Latin at 3M, where she makes technical connections between 3M Latin American subsidiaries and 3M’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. to foster inclusion and collaboration and has started work with a local nonprofit, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES), Minnesota’s largest Latino-led nonprofit organization dedicated to provide culturally and linguistically relevant services.

Laura attributes her work ethic to her strong Latino heritage and says that 3M has been the perfect place to jumpstart her career. “I have been at 3M almost six years and it has been a super fun, fast-paced and exciting journey. I am very proud of my Latino heritage and the strong work ethic my parents instilled in me – and 3M has been an awesome place to grow and, more importantly, play with science every day.”

To learn more about where a career at 3M can take you, visit

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