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.
Dr. Arratia has been recognized at a national level for his student mentoring
Some people think that helping others is the key to success. For Dr. Juan F. Arratia a fundamental part of his professional life has been to provide his students with the necessary tools and experiences to reach their goals. Dr. Arratia has dedicated his life to helping Puerto Rican students to obtain a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
We are in the middle of a war most people know nothing about. It is a war that has been going on, unstoppable and deadly, for more than 400 million years. I am referring to the co-evolutionary war between plants and insects.
It is very likely that this conflict started as the first insects evolved out of the ocean ecosystem. By that time, many plants have already transitioned and became terrestrial. The first insects that tried dry land discovered the largest “salad bar” in the world, miles and miles all types and sizes of plants for them to enjoy.
Amazona vittata. Courtesy of Omar Monsegur - USFWS Endangered Species
Day by day, scientists face great challenges in carrying out their research. Traditionally, in order to fund their projects, scientists write research proposals to government agencies, where they are evaluated by other colleagues. The challenge is even greater for early career scientists, as they must compete with established scientists with vast experience. The picture is less encouraging if we consider that the budget problems threaten the "sequestration" of funds for science and technology.
Becoming a scientist is a very individual process and can involve different paths as we discover and combine diverse experiences and interests. Although the trajectory to becoming a scientist is something very personal, finding a way to merge our passions is one of the most important things that we can do to ensure professional success, especially in the sciences. This was the case for astronomer, graphic artist and photographer José Francisco Salgado.