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.
In November 2013 we launched our Borinqueña initiative to broaden the discussion about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and promote the participation of women in these disciplines and careers where they have traditionally been underrepresented. On our second Borinqueña anniversary, we dedicate our monthly story to Dr. Ana Helvia Quintero, a math loving Borinqueña, educator by vocation and profession that has fought (as a professor, researcher and within the sphere of public policy) so that our young people have access to the world of mathematics.
Puerto Rico is well known, globally, as a leader in biosciences. This is mostly due because we train and educate professionals of the highest caliber in these disciplines. For this, we have to thank Dr. Graciela Candelas, a professor and pioneer researcher who revolutionized biology education in Puerto Rico.
Graciela Candelas was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico in 1922. She received motivation to study sciences from her father, Teobaldo Casanova, a statistical psychologist. He encouraged Graciela and her sisters to pursue careers in science because “they could learn the humanities at home”.
Dr. Tamargo with her research group. Photo courtesy of Dr. Tamargo.
Dr. María Tamargo’s interest in science began as a young woman. She was first exposed to chemistry as a high school student, where she had the opportunity to study in Spain for a year. This opportunity sparked her desire to become a scientist and therefore, she decided to major in chemistry. For her undergraduate degree, María attended the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, where her parents were also professors. At the time, the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico did not offer a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Recognizing her scientific talent, one of her professors encouraged María to transfer to the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, where she completed her B.S. in Chemistry.
Mentoring is crucial for success. A mentor’s unconditional support can propel you forward, and the guided learning that a mentor provides encourages professional and personal growth. For Dr. Luis A. Colón, mentoring is also a way to pay it forward. Throughout his journey to become a professor, Dr. Colón had very good mentors. He has made it his mission to serve others in a similar way.
Professor Idalia Ramos knew at an early age that her main interest was science: "My parents were teachers, and in particular, my father was a science teacher”. Born in a rural area in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico and in a family where both parents were educators and activists in the community, Ramos read a lot and always had an interest in math and science.
A little about ancestral genetics, genuine passion for research, the absence of absolute truths, and the unique reward of training the new generation of future scientists. These are just a few of the topics and thoughts that Dr. José Fernández shared with CienciaPR.