Posted on October 14, 2021 by Christopher Reichert


Janeth Martinez-Cortes, Ph.D. is the newest addition to a team of researchers assembled from a diverse array of departments within UTSA’s College of Education, College of Engineering, and College of Sciences. She’s also a UTSA alum, having just graduated with her Ph.D. in cultural language and literacy in 2020. The program Martinez-Cortes has joined is titled Building STEM Capacity: Transforming STEM Undergraduate Education through Academic Literacy, Mentoring, and Professional Development. It’s part of a nearly $1.8 million dollar grant awarded to the school through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program.  

“It’s a huge project,” Martinez-Cortes explained. “But really, the overall goal of this project is to improve student learning and success in STEM, in particular for Latinx students and for other underrepresented students like first-generation college students.”  

Improving student success, Martinez-Cortes says, begins with redesigning STEM courses, and training STEM teachers. In addition to increasing utilization of evidence-based teaching practices and STEM faculty coaching, the program also incorporates student mentoring and emphasizes the transition from lower- and upper-level undergraduate courses. These various aspects of the project all aim to increase faculty efficacy and student retention, while enhancing student success in their chosen professions.   

For Martinez-Cortes, the postdoctoral fellowship promises many exciting opportunities.   

“Part of the postdoc that I’m kind of excited about is developing my own study around this grant, and so that’s something I’m working on. I’m brainstorming and thinking so that it aligns with this research project and with my own research interests,” she said.   

It was while working as a master’s student at UTSA’s Child & Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) that Martinez-Cortes felt drawn to research and was finally convinced to pursue her Ph.D. She credits this experience and her Ph.D. program with placing her on the path to success which she is on now.  

“That was definitely an impactful time in my life because it really helped me define the path I wanted to take,” she said. “I think UTSA was a great place to get my Ph.D. and I’m definitely thankful that I was able to do that just because it really has offered me wonderful opportunities.”  

As a first-generation college student and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Martinez-Cortes finds that her own background and experiences have shaped her research interests and even her identity as a researcher. Now she has an opportunity to take those interests and explore them in greater detail.

“I think that’s the great thing about the postdoc is that it’s giving me the opportunity to extend and expand my own research interests and shift into focusing on Latinx students in STEM,” she said.

“I think that’s the great thing about the postdoc is that it’s giving me the opportunity to extend and expand my own research interests and shift into focusing on Latinx students in STEM,” she said.   

Martinez-Cortes says one of her primary areas of interest right now is in the peer-mentoring program and examining how that impacts Latinx student success. She has also expressed interest in researching Latina students and how they experience STEM courses in higher education.  

Besides conducting research, part of her duties in this two-year position will include traveling to conferences to assist in presenting the team’s findings.  

“Hopefully I’ll help with publications based on findings from the grant,” she said, “but also get the opportunity to work my own publications for my dissertation and for my work as well, to continue with my own development.  

Ultimately, Martinez-Cortes says she is grateful to be given the chance to further her research and assist on such a project.  

“For me this a great opportunity, one that I didn’t really think that I was going to have as a first-gen college student…it really means helping me advance and get to my career aspirations,” she said. “I really do feel blessed to have this opportunity and I want to take advantage of it as much as I can.”  


For more information on Building STEM Capacity, visit  and .

Information about the HSI Program can be found at .  


-Christopher Reichert

— Christopher Reichert