Monthly Story

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

Dr. Manuel Díaz-Ríos: Promoting neuroscience in the laboratory and the community

Marla S. Rivera-Oliver's picture
Dr. Manuel Díaz-Ríos and his research group
Dr. Manuel Díaz-Ríos and his research group

In the laboratory of Dr. Manuel Díaz-Ríos at the University of Puerto Rico’s Institute of Neurobiology, the students and personnel not only study how the motor nervous system functions and how it is affected with trauma or degenerative diseases, but they also learn the value of volunteer work and have the opportunity to teach kids and the community about science. Manolo (as he is known by his friends) firmly believes how important it is for scientists to contribute beyond the walls of the lab through education and mentoring. 

His passion for strengthening Puerto Rican education through volunteering comes from his own life experiences. Manolo acknowledges that he would not have accomplished as much as he has without the mentors that guided and mentored him throughout his career and life and that shared their enthusiasm for science with him. “I have always felt a passion for teaching going beyond just knowledge, so that the person, child or teacher feels excited by his classes or seminars”. 

Dr. Eduardo Nicolau: creating solutions with nanoparticle chemistry

Lorraine Doralys Rodriguez-Rivera's picture
Dr. Eduardo Nicolau
Dr. Eduardo Nicolau

The International Space Station (ISS) as well as space shuttles possess a limited amount of energy to keep their equipment working once they have been launched into space. Could you imagine being able to generate energy, for the ISS, using molecules found in the astronauts’ urine? Or being able to turn non-drinking water into one that is actually safe to drink?  Moreover, being able to use special materials, called biomaterials, to develop bone grafts?

Although this may sound like science fiction, Dr. Eduardo Nicolau and his students are working very hard to find solutions to these real-world problems. For instance, astronauts, people with severe health conditions, and countries where water scarcity is an issue, could benefit from Dr. Nicolau’s research.

Rosa Navarro Haydon: Founder of Puerto Rican School Science Education 1926-1966

Wilson Javier Gonzalez-Espada's picture
Prof. Rosa Navarro Hayden. Photo courtesy of Iveliz M. Cruz Irizarry, UPR Universiyt Archive.

Many historians agree that one of the most difficult periods in the history of Puerto Rico occurred between late 1920s and early 1940s. During this time, the Island faced natural disasters, lie hurricanes San Felipe (1928) and San Ciprián (1932), and economic disasters like the collapse of the world economy, the infamous Big Depression [1].

In terms of education, however, the situation in Puerto Rico has slowly improving. An aggressive program of school constructions resulted in an increase in the number of children who attended school from 9% in 1900 to almost 50% by 1940. A controversial component of the U.S. education policy that applied to Puerto Rico was the use of English as the teaching language, a decision humorously satirized in Don Abelardo Díaz Alfaro’s short story “Peyo Mercé teaches English” [2].

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

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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.

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