Stories and Viewpoints

A Pioneer Inspires the Next Generation of Women Scientists

A Pioneer Inspires the Next Generation of Women Scientists


By: Timothy Goodenow


Chalk one up for the once-popular set of beautiful, leather encyclopedias. Not for its uses as a door stop or stacked on top of one another as a foot stool. But for inspiring the career of one little girl and future scientist. 


In the 1970s, when Elvira Alvarez wasn’t enjoying time with her family, she could be found comfortably seated in any chair, scanning the pages of the heavy reference books. Encyclopedias were an accepted, and perhaps best resource, for general information on any subject under the sun. No topic caught her attention more than an entry capturing the story of scientist Marie Curie. 


“A few paragraphs in and I was hooked,” recalled Alvarez, a director in Quality operations at Viatris’ Vega Baja, Puerto Rico manufacturing plant. “Here they are describing the persistent efforts of a woman in the 19th century who wanted to be educated. Later she would start a career in science, championing the use of radiation in medicine and advancing in the treatment for cancer.  I was very inspired and from that moment, I wanted to become a scientist.” 

The more Alvarez read across all subject matters, the more curious she became. And that curiosity led to questions. Lots of them. “My mother and father heard a lot of ‘why this’ and ‘what about that’ and ‘what ifs,’” said Alvarez.  


This inquisitive nature would lay the foundation for learning throughout her life. Alvarez would take her studies seriously and become a top student, join Chemistry Club in high school and eventually take tests at the University of Puerto Rico for top chemistry scholars.  


After earning her degree in chemistry, Alvarez would begin her 38-year career in the pharmaceutical industry on the bench as a chemist. Today, after various science roles with different companies, she helps Viatris’ operations ensure its quality systems are in place to meet necessary regulatory requirements. 


“My team plays an important role in our site being able to consistently deliver high-quality products to patients around the world,” said Alvarez.  


This includes promoting a quality mindset across the site, driving proactive improvements into the organization, coaching and mentoring, and the establishment and maintenance of policies and standard operating procedures. 


As the industry continues to evolve and changes take place, she admits to being flexible to adapt and continue searching for updated information. 


“I still come to work with a lot of passion,” said Alvarez. “Even with success, I find myself asking why and how. Why did it work? How can we sustain it? Is there room for further improvement?” 


Alvarez hopes her open and honest style will spark interest, generate dialogue, and unlock learning amongst colleagues. 


“You can never stop learning. When you find something interesting, it can often inspire you to take action.” 


And for Alvarez, once reading about Marie Curie as a child, inspired her to become the next generation of women scientists. 


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