Dr. Roberto Torretti y su esposa, la Dra. Carla Cordua
A quick glance at the history of science is enough to notice its enormous progress, especially in the last 100 years. As theories, laws, hypotheses, models, data, and speculations about the natural world are developed, revised and discarded by scientists, they have transformed into highly sub-specialized professionals.
Engineer Yoira Díaz Sanabria was always attracted to science, especially biology and chemistry. “My mother was a biology teacher and science is in my blood”. She considered going into medicine or medical technology, but at the time to decide for college she chose to study chemical engineering.
Yoira is originally from Las Piedras, the city of artisans. She was raised and attended school in eastern Puerto Rico. When the time for college came around, based on her decision to pursue engineering, her parents did not hesitate to send her to University of Puerto Mayagüez, where they knew she would receive the best education.
Dr. Larissa Avilés Santa during a medical trip to Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Dr. Larissa Avilés Santa.
From a young age, Dr. Larissa Avilés Santa knew she wanted to study the human body. “When I was in fourth or fifth grade I remember opening an Anatomy atlas and how fascinated I was by each illustration. The part of the book that caught my attention was the one about the male and female reproductive systems, and the explanation about the menstrual cycle and pregnancy,” she says. It was back then that her interest in endocrinology was born.
Out of his fascination for understanding the world around him, scientist Gilberto Cintrón Morelo fell in love with the sea. Don Gilberto has dedicated his life to build a successful career as a marine ecologist, preserving coastal ecosystems in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean region. His professional achievements demonstrate that a deep understanding of basic scientific principles is needed to protect the environment.
In 1974, a young astrophysics college professor sent his even younger doctoral student to spend several weeks in Arecibo, a city some 50 miles west of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. This northern city is the site of the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, known as the Arecibo Observatory.
Borinqueña, a new initiative for Hispanic women in science
Almost 140 years have passed since famed Puerto Rican educator, philosopher, and lawyer, Eugenio Maria de Hostos, revolutionized Latin American intellectual spheres by publishing a passionate essay advocating for science education for women. Back in Hostos’ days, women still lacked the right to vote and few had access to any type of higher education.
Dr. Wanda Díaz Merced has created a system that lets her "listen" to the stars (Credit: William Leibman)
Frequently, science teachers ask their students to draw a scientist so that they can get a sense of what students think and imagine about scientists. Thousands and thousands of drawings show the same stereotypical characteristics: a male scientist, white, dressed in a lab coat, usually a chemist mixing liquids and generating explosions, and a person that does not have any physical limitations.
No student has ever drawn a scientist like Dr. Wanda Díaz Merced. This young woman from Gurabo embodies the scientific anti-stereotype. Not only is she a woman and Puerto Rican, but also she completed her doctoral work in astrophysics, and without being able to use her sight.
Science Teacher, Elba Sepúlveda, in front of Fermilab
On the “Cerro las Mesas” in Mayagüez, future Puerto Rican scientists, mathematicians and engineers nurture their dreams of discovery. The “croemitas”, as people refer to the students of the Residential Center of Educational Opportunities of Mayagüez (CROEM, spanish acronym) obtain a first class high school education. Among CROEM’s excellent educators is the Physics teacher Elba M. Sepúlveda Cabassa.
Dr. Eddie Laboy Nieves has dedicated his life to studying and educating others about Puerto Rican nature
As a restless and hardworking child, the words spoken by “grandpa” Don Andrés became Eddie’s life compass: “We need to take care of the land and the rivers; without them the poor cannot eat or drink.” Inspired by this message of love for nature, Dr. Eddie N. Laboy Nieves recognized the importance of preserving the environment, leading him to invest his time and career to understand it and to teach others about nature.