Celebrated every May in the United States, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month observes and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans, including their history, culture, and achievements in the U.S.
Among these achievements are the AAPI community’s contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
A number of AAPI scientists and engineers have made a big impact on history, such as:
- Chien-Shiung Wu
A Chinese-American known widely as the “First Lady of Physics,” Wu made significant advancements in the fields of nuclear and particle physics. During a time in history when few women worked in science and technology, Wu was awarded the Wolf Prize in Physics, the National Medal of Science for Physical Science, and the Comstock Prize in Physics for her groundbreaking work.
- Kalpana Chawla
The first female NASA astronaut of Indian heritage to journey into space, Chawla served as a robotic arm operator aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 and 2003. Sadly, she passed away on the second mission. After her death, she was honored with a number of awards, including the Kalpana Chawla Award, which recognizes young women in science.
- Isabella Aiona Abbott
An ethnobotanist born and raised in Hawaii, Abbott was the first woman from the state to earn a Ph.D. in science. She is known for her extensive work investigating the relationship between people and plants— in particular her knowledge of Pacific algae.
- Fazlur Rahman Khan
A Bangladeshi-American structural engineer and architect, Khan is known as the “Father of Tubular Designs” and the “Einstein of Structural Engineering” for his work designing high-rise buildings that are more resilient against natural forces like strong wind and earthquakes.
The AAPI community’s contribution to science and technology continues to this today. From Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to Silicon Valley pioneer Jerry Yang, there is no shortage of AAPI scientists and technologists leading the way in shaping the future of STEM.
AAPI Month is a perfect time to introduce students to these leaders while sparking their interest in science and engineering in the process.
Check Out These Resources to Get Started
- Show your students this series of videos highlighting AAPI contributions to STEM
- Display posters highlighting AAPI Stem achievements in your classroom
- Share and discuss profiles of AAPI NASA professionals
- Watch the PBS – AAPI History Spotlight: Saluting STEM Pioneers videos