Ciencia Boricua Profiles

Every month we profile the work of an outstanding CienciaPR member or discuss a topic of relevance to our community

Long live community leaders, tabonucos of Puerto Rico!

Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer's picture
Ilustración trazada de un árbol de tabonuco en líneas blancas sobre un fondo azul. El texto dice qué vivan los tabonucos de Puerto Rico.
The community leaders of Puerto Rico are like tabonucos: robust, resourceful, wise, and supportive.

This article appeared in the book "Ciencia y solidaridad: Historias de líderes comunitarios en Puerto Rico" (Science and Solidarity: Stories of Community Leaders in Puerto Rico).

The community leaders of Puerto Rico are an essential fiber of our country. They constitute an important network of support and security for countless individuals, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalized, in the face of disasters, everyday crises, and institutional failures. They are like the tabonuco, a native tree of Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, with great historical, social, and cultural significance.

SECARIBE: Investigating the Connections Between Caribbean Droughts and the Saharan Dust

Joel Alejandro Mercado-Díaz's picture
Imagen de satélite compuesta mostrando el desplazamiento del polvo del Sahara a la región del Caribe para Junio 15 de 2015. Imagen cortesía de NASA Worldview.

In 2015, 75 out of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico were significantly affected by a drought that caused severe shortages and rationing in potable water supplies. According to the US Drought Monitor, this has been the longest drought in these islands since 2000, when formal recording of these events began. This drought lasted about 80 weeks both in Puerto Rico and other islands of the Caribbean.

SECARIBE: INVESTIGATING THE CONECCTIONS BETWEEN CARIBBEAN DROUGHTS AND THE SAHARAN DUST

Elvin Joel Estrada Garcia's picture
Imagen de satélite compuesta mostrando el desplazamiento del polvo del Sahara a la región del Caribe para Junio 15 de 2015. Imagen cortesía de NASA Worldview.

In 2015, 75 out of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico were significantly affected by a drought that caused severe shortages and rationing in potable water supplies. According to the US Drought Monitor, this has been the longest drought in these islands since 2000, when formal recording of these events began. This drought lasted about 80 weeks both in Puerto Rico and other islands of the Caribbean.

Lueny Morell: Innovator in engineering education

Charlene Nicole Rivera Bonet's picture
Lueny Morell

In memory of Lueny Morell (1952-2020)

There are people whose work transcends generations, continents, and expectations. One of them is Lueny Morell, a Puerto Rican chemical engineer who transformed teaching methods in engineering, not only in Puerto Rico but around the world. The legacy of Lueny, who passed away in September of 2020, continues to impact the lives of many today.

Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar: Forging paths for Latinx science

Charlene Nicole Rivera Bonet's picture
La Dra. Carmen Maldonado Vlaar con dos miembros de su laboratorio, examinando un tubo de muestra.
Dr. Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar is a neuroscience researcher at the UPR-Rio Piedras

“What would be ideal is for gender and race equality to exist in science, for everyone to be represented equally.” That is the biggest goal of Puerto Rican scientist, Dr. Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar, who is a distinguished researcher and mentor in the field of neuroscience. In addition to contributing new knowledge to the field on the mechanisms of addiction, she has forged paths for the new generation of Latinx scientists.

It all started with the science fair

José A. Rodríguez-Martínez: Interrogating Proteins

Lorraine Doralys Rodriguez-Rivera's picture

Translated by Charlene Rivera-Bonet

Did you know that the colors of butterflies, the development of the heart and the resistance of certain bacteria to peroxide have something in common? They are all a result of the interaction between proteins and nucleic acids (such as DNA). Discovering and understanding the interactions between these two molecules essential for life is important to explain different biological processes, which is the goal of Dr. José A. Rodríguez Martínez. As a principal investigator and assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras (UPR-RP), he developed a technique to interrogate any protein and ask, which nucleic acid sequence do you interact with?

With Eyes towards the Sky: From Puerto Rico to Yale and back again.

Sophia Araceli Sánchez-Maes's picture
Hector Arce
Professor Hector Arce in his office at Yale

When astrophysicist Dr. Héctor Arce returned home to Puerto Rico in October of 2015, it was to bring a handful of Yale astronomy students to Arecibo Observatory, at that time, the largest single dish radio telescope in the world. For Héctor, a professor of astrophysics at Yale University, passion for the stars started at home. When Héctor was young, his grandfather used to build his own telescopes. “I still have them,” Héctor says. Staring through the lenses of those telescopes with his grandfather opened a universe of possibility for young Héctor.

Nelson Colón Vargas: First Boricua to Become Presidential Innovation Fellow

Reinaldo Franqui Machin's picture
El Dr. Nelson Colón Vargas

For many, studying mathematics is synonymous with difficulties and frustration. However, numbers has opened many doors for for Dr. Nelson Colón Vargas. The most recent were the doors of the federal government. In February 2019, Dr. Colón Vargas became the first Puerto Rican to receive the "Presidential Innovation Fellowship" of the White House of the United States.

Born and raised in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, it is safe to say that Nelson is passionate about numbers. He has a baccalaureate, two masters' and a Ph.D. in mathematics. His interest in this field began in elementary school. He had excellent teachers growing up. For him, his passion for mathematics is matched only by his curiosity to understand the world.

José Hernández Ayala: A Research Leader in Geographic Climatology

Wilson Gonzalez-Espada's picture
Dr. Hernández Ayala is a professor of geographic climatology at Sonoma State University

Climatology, the study of weather changes over time, is a prominent scientific field often cited in the media. Sonoma State University, in California, is one of several institutions that has a Climate Research Center (CRC-Sonoma), in which scientists from different disciplines collaborate to better understand the relationships between short-term atmospheric phenomena, the climate, physical geography and human geography. Notably, CRC-Sonoma is directed by a young Arecibeño scientist!

Dr. Mayda Velasco: Bringing the Universe Home

Sophia Araceli Sánchez-Maes's picture
Dr. Mayda Velasco, Puerto Rican physicist at Northwestern University
Puerto Rican physicist Dr. Mayda Velasco (Copyright: Ramon "Tonito" Zayas for El Nuevo Día)

Dr. Mayda Velasco is a world-renowned physicist who thinks big—from understanding the universe’s smallest components to building scientific capacity in Puerto Rico and Latin America.

In a building overlooking the ocean in Old San Juan, an eclectic group of people—young and old, women and men, citizens of many countries—are working to understand the structure and evolution of the universe. They have come together at Colegio de Física Fundamental e Interdisciplinaria de las Américas (College of Fundamental and Interdisciplinary Physics of the Americas).

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