Monthly Story

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

Carla Restrepo: Leaving a mark with ecological studies

Lorraine Doralys Rodriguez-Rivera's picture
Dr. Carla Restrepo

At some point in our lives we have asked questions regarding the environment, the animals that inhabit planet earth, and climatic conditions. How does an increase in temperature could affect some organisms? How do small changes in a specific environment can have a large-scale effect on our planet? How does human activity affect our bodies of water? These are some of the questions that Dr. Restrepo, an ecologist and professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, is attempting to answer through her research projects.

Patricia Ordóñez: Propelling computer science into the health industry and equity

Reyna I. Martínez De Luna's picture
Dr. Patricia Ordóñez
Dr. Patricia Ordóñez

The disparity of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is still a serious issue in 2016. Computer science, a STEM discipline, is not the exception. Data from the National Science Foundation show that although the number women acquiring computer science degrees has increased since 2002, women are still a small proportion of the workforce in this field which continues to be dominated by men. 

That was the case for Dr. Patricia Ordóñez, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, who despite her abilities and interests, took a tortuous road to obtain the position she holds today. Patricia knows too well about the unconscious bias and discrimination that women and minorities face in this field and is set on changing these statistics.

A Decade Transforming Science in Puerto Rico Together

Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer's picture

This year, we are celebrating a decade of promoting science and research in Puerto Rico. Through our programs and initiatives we have transformed the way science and scientists are presented in the media. We have created thousands of resources to make science relevant to the reality and culture of students in our classrooms. We have also established programs that foster the development of the next generation of Puerto Rican scientists and innovators. Our efforts have been recognized by the White House and by the Caribbean Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

A seemingly wild idea

Una década transformando juntos la ciencia en Puerto Rico

Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer's picture

Este año estamos celebrando una década promocionando la ciencia y la investigación en Puerto Rico. Mediante nuestros programas e iniciativas, hemos transformado la forma en que la ciencia y los científicos son presentados en los medios de comunicación. Hemos creado miles de recursos para hacer la ciencia relevante a la realidad y la cultura de los estudiantes en nuestros salones de clase. Hemos establecido programas que fomentan el desarrollo de la próxima generación de científicos e innovadores de Puerto Rico. Nuestros esfuerzos han sido reconocidos por la Casa Blanca y por la División del Caribe de la Asociación Americana para el Avance de la Ciencia (AAAS, por sus siglas en inglés).

Una idea loca

Dr. Idhaliz Flores Caldera: educator, researcher and a pioneer of endometriosis research in Puerto Rico

Lumarie Pérez-Guzmán's picture
Dr. Idhaliz Flores Caldera
Dr. Idhaliz Flores Caldera

Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, grows outside of it.  This generally occurs in the linings of the abdomen and pelvic cavity.  Its main symptom is pain during menstruation, also known as dysmenorrhea.  Other symptoms include chronic pelvic pain and infertility.  Worldwide, it is estimated that 1 in every 10 women of reproductive age is affected by endometriosis including approximately 9 million women in the United States, and 50 thousand in Puerto Rico. 

Although the cause has not been determined, it has been identified that genetic, environmental and immunological factors play key roles in the development of this disease.  Dr. Idhaliz Flores Caldera, and her collaborators are investigating these factors at Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Marcel Agüeros: The junction of world-class astronomy and passion for diversity

Elizabeth Padilla-Crespo's picture
Dr. Marcel Agüeros
Dr. Marcel Agüeros

It’s that time of the year again: the smell of charcoal, children gleefully splashing water at the beach, frozen lemonades, and endless warm nights staring at the mystifying skies… Did you know that some of the stars you see are bigger and brighter than our sun? That some of them don't exist anymore since their light travels millions of years to reach us?  Astronomy, one of the oldest sciences, helps us understand objects and matter outside the Earth's atmosphere—stars, planets, comets, galaxies and black holes—and their physical and chemical properties. 

Dr. Marcel Agüeros has made astronomy his life's work and passion. 

His Astronomical Journey

Marcel was born and raised in New York City. Although New York might not be the best place for star peeping, astronomy was one Marcel’s favorite topics to read about as a kid. Eventually this inspired him to take an introductory undergraduate class in astronomy at Columbia University, which led to him to major in the subject.

Valerie Wojna: Finding Healthcare Alternatives for HIV-Positive Women

Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer's picture
Valerie Vojna y sus colegas
Dr. Valerie Wojna, center, with her NeuroAIDS Program colleagues.

Great advances in the management, prevention and treatment of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have significantly reduced the mortality caused by this infection. However, the stigma around the disease remains, so there are groups of patients who are discriminated against when receiving medical care. Dr. Valerie Wojna, professor at the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico (MSC-UPR), seeks to improve the quality of life of one of these underserved groups: women with HIV.

Rodolfo Romañach: Improving production of pharmaceutical and food products through scientific research

Lorraine Doralys Rodriguez-Rivera's picture
Dr. Rodolfo Romañach

To produce drugs and foods in a safe and efficient manner is an important and complex task. Food and pharmaceutical companies are actively trying to improve their processes in order to prevent drugs that were not manufactured properly, and unsafe foods to reach the consumers. Scientists like Dr. Rodolfo Romañach use research and innovation to tackle these challenges.

Once the manufacturing process is completed the final product is sampled. This sample is subjected to further testing and analysis. This all happens before the product reaches consumers. The purpose of these tests is to ensure that the product complies with the quality standards approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the tests show that a specific product does not comply with these standards the product is discarded. This represents thousands of dollars in time and money losses for pharmaceutical companies.

James Ayala González: The Panda “Whisperer”

Wilson Javier Gonzalez-Espada's picture
James Ayala González
James Ayala González con un panda rojo

Por Dr. Wilson Gonzalez-Espada, Ciencia Puerto Rico


A well-known mathematics postulate states that: “Through any two points, there is exactly one straight line." Our reality, of course, is much more complicated than that. The life journey of a person is more like the curvy roads of PR-1, or “La Piquiña.”

A perfect example of this is scientist James Ayala González, who started his professional life as a jazz musician and today is a behavioral researcher at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sichuan Province, Peoples Republic of China.

Illuminating science: Promoting the field of photonics in Puerto Rico

Luis Cedeno's picture
Dr. Jonathan Friedman

For one thousand years, we humans have been fascinated by light and by harnessing its power to develop new technologies. Light and optics are the basis of some the most important technologies of our time—from lasers, to fiber optics and telecommunications; from technologies to explore the cosmos, to applications to explore the world on a microscopic or even nanoscopic scale.  In honor of such an important area of research and knowledge, the year 2015 was proclaimed by the United Nations as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL). In Puerto Rico, celebrations for the IYL were led by Dr. Jonathan Friedman, an expert in the physics of light and a champion for Puerto Rico as a destination for the training of students and development of new technologies in the area of photonics, the manipulation of photons of light and energy for science, engineering and technology applications.

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