LaserChick inspires students through her journey in STEM

Desiré Whitmore is focused on increasing awareness and opportunities

Laser Chick

Dr. Desiré Whitmore holds degrees in physical sciences, chemical engineering, and chemical & material physics. @itsvasquez2u on Twitter

Kathryn Gray, Multimedia Journalist

Desiré Whitmore, better known as “LaserChick,” never imagined what her life would be like back when she began her Associate’s Degree in Physical Science at Antelope Valley Community College outside Los Angeles.

“I’m going to tell you right now,” Whitmore said. “I am at my dream job and I didn’t know this job existed until three years ago.”

At the “Womxn in STEM” event on March 10, Whitmore inspired students with her life story and her endless knowledge about fast lasers and tiny particles.

Whitmore is one of eight children. Growing up in southern California, a majority of her childhood was spent working and caring for her younger siblings. 

Throughout her studies, Whitmore’s goal to break the cycle of poverty in her own family was a driving force that kept her focused when faced with challenges. From a young age, she knew that education was her way out. 

“I want to go to college so that I don’t have to live in poverty the way my family lives in poverty,” Whitmore said.

Initially rejected twice from her first choice university for undergrad and again when applying to graduate school, Whitmore didn’t take it personally. 

“Don’t dwell on the places you could have been but think about where you want to go,” Whitmore said.

Seven years after beginning at Antelope Valley Community College, Whitmore earned her Bachelors of Science in chemical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Whitmore then studied at the University of California, Irvine, where she earned a Masters of Science and a Ph.D. in chemical and material sciences. She then worked with some of the fastest lasers on earth during her post-doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Drawn to teach, Whitmore left academia to teach science curriculum at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California. While there, Whitmore developed a completely digital science curriculum for elementary and middle school students that is now being used in classrooms throughout the country.

Eventually returning to her city college roots, Whitmore became an assistant professor of laser and photonics technology at Irvine Valley College in southern California before landing her dream job at the Exploratorium three years ago.

“The time it takes doesn’t matter,” Whitmore said. “If I would have taken a faster route to get here, this job wouldn’t have existed for me.”

Now a Senior Physics Educator at the Exploratorium, an interactive museum of “Science, Art and Human Perception” in San Francisco, Whitmore designs learning experiences for the museum’s teacher institute

“I love science and science research for the purpose of teaching,” Whitmore said. 

The interactive, inquiry-based curriculum she designs is used by middle school and high school science teachers in classrooms throughout the United States.

To try one of the interactive experiences Whitmore teaches at the teacher’s institute, click here and turn any smartphone into a mini-scope, your personal portal into the mini-scopic world.