Gap between science, humanities focus of ASU Polytechnic seminar

Guest speaker discusses the ongoing toll of the Manhattan Project on Nuevomexicano communities

September 26, 2023

The $900 million box office hit “Oppenheimer” offers a glimpse into the development of the world’s first atomic bomb, but the film leaves a lot about the story of the Manhattan Project — and its ongoing legacy — untold.

The role Nuevomexicano communities played in the Manhattan Project is a topic Myrriah Gómez, an associate professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, dedicates her research to. Gómez shared her work at the Science and Mathematics Colloquium series presented by the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Woman standing at the front of a classroom speaking to students. Myrriah Gómez, an associate professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico, was invited to speak at the Science and Mathematics Colloquium series presented by the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus on Sept. 20. Photo by Sona Srinarayana/ASU Download Full Image

The series, part of a weekly seminar course, often features invited speakers from across ASU or from other institutions, who share their research or other pursuits that intersect with biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics.

During her seminar, Gómez, a native of New Mexico and author of "Nuclear Nuevo México: Colonialism and the Effects of the Nuclear Industrial Complex on Nuevomexicanos," examined colonialityThe policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically., especially nuclear colonialityLong-standing patterns of power that emerge as a result of colonialism, defined by culture, labor, intersubjective relations and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations..

In her book and through her public outreach, she is bringing to light the long-term impacts of the nuclear industrial complex, emphasizing what she sees as the five tenets of nuclear colonialismThe state-sponsored occupation of Indigenous homelands that results in the displacement and/or elimination of Indigenous people and other ethnic minority groups in poor economic situations, in favor of preserving a nuclear economy.: intergenerational trauma; disease and death; contamination; secrecy and obscurity; and environmental racism. Gómez argued that a combination of these injustices continue to plague Nuevomexicano communities.

“We bring discussions like these to our students because as STEM practitioners and researchers, it’s important for them to remember that they operate within cultural environments and societies, not in a vacuum of science or math,” said Igor Shovkovy, a professor of physics and faculty head in CISA’s School of Applied Sciences and Arts. “As educators, our goal is to offer our students a well-rounded education, and this includes a view into the effects of science and technology on humanity.”

Elaborating on the project’s impact on humanity, Gómez said that during the establishment of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, prior to 1942, the site unlawfully displaced many Nuevomexicano families from their ranches. She also uncovered through her research that the site did not meet any of the stipulations required of a bomb-building facility, except one — the reasonable availability of labor.

“The project drew a blue-collar workforce from Nuevomexicano communities in the area — the people that we don’t see or hear about in the movie,” Gómez said. “This workforce became the disposable workforce and collateral damage, and endured disease and death from high levels of plutonium and uranium exposures. The project had a catastrophic effect on communities, cultures and the environment that continue even to this day.”

Eighty years later, Gómez noted, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, is developing a minimum of 50 new weapons per year, and that number is expected to grow, while Nuevomexicano communities are still reeling from the effects of major cancer clusters stemming from the Manhattan Project. She says the U.S. rationalizes this effort to keep up with the global “nuclear arms race.”

“Chemicals were mishandled during the Manhattan Project,” Shovkovy said. “This has happened countless times in history and continues to happen today with coal mining, fracking and various other activities that pollute our environment. We need to do better.”

Professor Elizabeth J. Donaldson, director of CISA’s School of Applied Sciences and Arts, said, “This is the untold story of the nuclear arms race, and it was a fascinating discussion led by Myrriah Gómez as part of our Hispanic Heritage Month programming. It's seminars like these that really embrace what it means to be polytechnic learners and that enable CISA to bridge science and humanities.”

Gómez’s book is available for purchase for those interested in learning more.

CISA’s Science and Mathematics Colloquium series events are free, open to the public and offered in person at ASU's Polytechnic campus and via Zoom. The public events are posted on the CISA homepage, CISA social media platforms and ASU Events as they are announced.

Sona Patel Srinarayana

Sr communications specialist, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


New survey examines political affiliation in Arizona, California and Texas

September 26, 2023

With the 2024 election fast approaching, campaign strategists and pundits might think Democrats, Republicans and Independents who live in different states differ on the most critical issues.

Is it possible Democrats view politics differently in San Francisco when compared with Democrats in Dallas? Or, maybe Republicans in Phoenix see things differently than Republicans in Los Angeles or Houston. Not so, reveals a survey conducted in three important Southwestern and Western states: Arizona, California and Texas. Sign with the letters "ASU" on a campus, surrounded by a tree in bloom. The survey is part of a five-series joint polling project among researchers at Arizona State University, Stanford University and the University of Houston that kicked off in June. ASU photo Download Full Image

The survey is part of a five-series joint polling project among researchers at Arizona State University, Stanford University and the University of Houston. The series kicked off in June with the release of a survey examining the three states’ changing attitudes on abortion.

Survey respondents were from representative samples of Arizona, California and Texas residents, age 18 or older. Respondents were asked about their political party attachment, political ideology and views about the spending priorities of state governments and other controversial topics, including support for a border wall, an abortion ban after 15 weeks and immediate climate action.

“The findings of this specific report emphasize the importance and dominance of partisanship in the American electorate. Party attachment guides our understanding of how potential voters feel about ideology, spending priorities of state governments and several controversial issues,” said Dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Executive Vice Provost at Arizona State University Patrick Kenney.

“This joint project explores citizens' attitudes in these three key Western states. These states currently run the gamut along the political continuum of U.S. politics,” Kenney said. “California is governed primarily by the Democratic Party, the Republican Party governs Texas, by and large, and Arizona is a swing state with Democrats and Republicans sharing control.”

Figure 1: Political party identification in Arizona. Courtesy The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

California will play a key role in the Electoral College, while Texas will be crucial for the Republican Party. Voting patterns over the past several decades indicate these states are likely to remain loyal to their respective party. But Arizona is a classic battleground state. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by a slim margin in Arizona, receiving 49.36% of the votes compared to 49.06% for Trump. 

This research provides specific insight into whether voters of the same party differ in their values across the three states. 

The findings indicate no dramatic differences among citizens of the same party across Arizona, California or Texas. So campaigns can cast nearly identical messages in different media markets on topics such as supporting abortion, climate action or support for K–12 education.

Among the other interesting survey findings:

  • Abortion ban after 15 weeks: Texas Democrats are far more supportive of an abortion ban after 15 weeks (44%) compared with Arizona and California Democrats (26% support in both states).

  • Border wall: California Republicans are less supportive of a border wall compared with their counterparts in Arizona and Texas, although overall support across the three states is over 75%.

  • Elementary and secondary schools: A majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in each of the three states are supportive of increasing spending for elementary and secondary schools.

  • Health care: Democrats in Arizona support increases in spending to aid the poor and on health care by 7% or 8% more than Democrats in California. However, these differences are minor, considering that both states are overwhelmingly supportive of increasing spending on these two issues.

Figure 2: Support for relevant issues in Arizona, California and Texas. Courtesy The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The survey was conducted between May 31 and June 6 among 3,163 respondents 18 years and older; 1,051 were in Arizona, 1,045 were in California, and 1,067 were in Texas. The margin of error is +/- 3.0%.

Other published analyses in the three-state survey series include the status of abortion laws and transgender legislation and policies.

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences