Things That Matter

17 Notable Latinos Pushing Science Forward Today

Over the last century, many scientists have emerged from Latin America and from Latino communities around the world. However noteworthy and important their work has been for the progress of science, these remarkably intelligent, innovative people are rarely talked about in classrooms. The following is a list of men, women and young people who exemplify the best of the Latin community. They come from different ethnic groups and educational background, but what they do have in common is the drive to solve common problems that affect the world through science. 

1. Prof. Pedro A. Sanchez

CREDIT: UC Santa Cruz

From selling eggs back in Cuba, to washing dishes to fund his education at Cornell University, Pedro Sanchez, has led groundbreaking research in soil science to improve soil quality and boost food production all around the developing world. Thanks to Sanchez’s work that spurred the Green Revolution, 15 million people no longer starve today.

2. Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff

CREDIT: Twitter @lydiavk

Born in New Mexico from Mexican parents, Dr. Komaroff was the third Mexican-American woman to get a doctorate degree in the sciences. Among many scientific achievements, her most notable work was the first ever production of insulin from bacterial cells. Today, most of the insulin for human use is produced using the techniques that Dr. Komaroff introduced.  

3. Dr. Frances Colón

CREDIT: Mission of the United States Geneva/Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Frances Colon grew up in Puerto Rico and received her doctorate in neuroscience at Brandeis University. Colon served almost five years as the Science and Technology Adviser, becoming the highest-ranking Hispanic scientist at the State department. Prior to this role, she served as a Science and Technology Adviser to then Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2009, Colon led the Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas. In 2015, she co-chaired the UN Commission on Science and Technology. 

4. Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski

CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

Sabrina Pasterski is a first-generation Cuban American who has been lauded as “the next Einstein”. She completed her undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a year earlier than her peers with a perfect GPA. At just the age of 24, she is now pursuing her doctorate in physics at Harvard University. In 2015, she completed first solo research paper on electromagnetic memory, which was cited by Stephen Hawking in his own research published the next year. 

5. Ellen Ochoa

 CREDIT: Twitter @Astro_Ellen

Perhaps the best known example of a successful Latina scientist is Ellen Ochoa. After completing a doctorate in electrical engineering, Ellen Ochoa served as a researcher at NASA. While at NASA, Ochoa co-invented and patented three optic devices and became the first Hispanic woman to participate in space missions. Most notably, Ochoa helped perform the first ever shuttle docking to the International Space Station in 1999 on board the Discovery. Since 2012, Ochoa has served director of NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center, becoming the first Hispanic woman to ever do so.  

6. Mario Molina

                            CREDIT: CC BY-SA/Wikimedia Commons

If you think about chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and how bad they are for the ozone, the last thing on your mind would be the person who figured it all out, Mario Molina. Since he was a child in Mexico, Molina knew he had to be a chemist. He studied in Switzerland, Germany and Mexico and received his doctorate in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley. At Berkeley, Molina pursued his postdoctoral research study on the effects CFCs once they are released into the atmosphere. Within three months, Molina with the help of computer simulations, found that CFCs could potentially damage the ozone layer. Molina and his mentor Prof. Sherwood Roland spent the next decades alerting governments to the dangers of CFCs, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. When Molina’s findings were confirmed, he was awarded with the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

7. Nicole Hernandez Hammer

                                   CREDIT: Twitter @NHH_Climate

Nicole Hammer is a Guatemalan biologist and researcher who studies the effects of climate change on sea levels and vulnerable populations on the coastal areas of Southeastern United States. She has authored several papers and has spoken extensively on climate change for international media outlets like The New York Times, Al Jazeera, and The Washington Post.

8. Scarlin Hernandez

CREDIT: NASA

Scarlin Hernandez is a 26 year-old Dominican working as a spacecraft engineer for NASA. She develops and tests code and ground systems for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission. Hernandez was given full scholarship by the National Science Foundation (NSF). After graduating, she interned at the Goddard Space Flight Center at NASA and went on to be team leader for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. 

9. Dr. Juan Maldacena

CREDIT: Creative Commons

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Juan Maldacena studied physics at the University of Buenos Aires before going on to earn two master’s degrees and a doctorate in theoretical physics. As a young professor in Harvard in 1999, Maldacena managed to reshape the fundamentals of physics with his discovery. Maldacena’s discovery has helped physicists to study black holes and quantum gravity, and  has been cited more than 15, 000 times since its publication, making it the most widely cited paper ever in physics. 

10. Javier Fernandez-Han

CREDIT: TEDx

Javier Fernandez-Han is just 17. As young as he is, Javier Fernandez-Han has taken strides that not many adults can claim to. Born to Chinese and Mexican immigrants, Fernandez-Han was recently named among the Forbes’ 30 under 30 for his invention of using algae to break down sewage waste into methane, which can be used for fuel. But that’s not all: When he was 14, he launched an organization “Inventors without Borders”. It aims to find “innovative solutions to solve real-world problems in rural, poverty-stricken areas”.

11. Eloy Rodriguez

CREDIT: National Institutes of Health

Another noteworthy Latino scientist is Eloy Rodriguez. Rodriguez was born in Texas to Mexican parents. He is a world-renowned professor and scientist in many specialties of science, including toxicology, cell biology, plant biology and chemical ecology. He has published two books and more than 160 research studies and has received many awards for his exceptional work. Rodriguez also founded Kids Investigating and Discovering Science (KIDS) that gives minority children an opportunity to study science.

12. France Anne-Dominic Córdova

CREDIT: National Science Foundation

France Cordova is an astrophysicist appointed as the fourteenth president of the National Science Foundation in 2014. Previously, she had published more than 150 studies in astrophysics. As if that wasn’t enough, Cordova also served as chief scientist for NASA, founded a medical school and has won multiple awards, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

13. Salvador Moncada

CREDIT: The University of Manchester

Salvador Moncada is a Honduran pharmacologist who is currently the Research Director at the University of Manchester Cancer Centre. Moncada studied medicine in El Salvador, then went on to pursue a PhD in Pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons. His scientific work continues to break ground in the molecular mechanisms and treatment of heart disease, inflammation, cancer and malaria. Dr. Moncada’s discoveries have been lauded internationally, especially his discovery of nitric oxide. His unjust exclusion from the 1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine was heavily criticised in the scientific community. 

14. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

CREDIT: CNN

Also known as “Dr. Q”, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa is a neurosurgeon and a world-renowned researcher. He is the director of Neurologic Surgery and runs the research lab at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Between 2005-2016, Quiñones and his team published more than 150 scientific studies on the development of brain cancer. Currently, Quiñones leads the NIH initiative to find a cure for brain cancer. He has also been developing minimally-invasive neurosurgical techniques with the use of nanotechnology.

15. Manny Villafaña

CREDIT: The Claretian Initiative

Far from being a typical PhD educated scientist, Manny Villafaña grew up in the Bronx and received only a high school diploma. What he lacks in education, though, he makes up for in foresight and grit. He started out his career at Picker International, then moved on to Medtronic. In 1971, left Medtronic to launch rival company Cardiac Pacemakers Inc. that revolutionized pacemaker technology. In 1976, Villafaña launched St. Jude Medical that engineered the first artificial bileaflet heart valve that blood clotting. Recently, Villafaña launched his new venture which aims to produce artificial coronary arteries for patients needing bypass surgery. 

16. Dr. Julio C. Palmaz

CREDIT:  Stanford Biodesign

If you have had a heart attack, you’ve got Julio Palmaz to thank for. Born in Argentina to parents of Italian descent, Palmaz moved to the United States with his family in 1977. The next year, Palmaz conceived the idea of a stent after a conference in New Orleans. In 1983, he successfully developed the prototype, which received patent in 1994. Dr. Palmaz has basically saved millions of lives and continues to drive innovation in stent technology.

17. Dr. Domingo Liotta

CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

Another Latino whose work continues to push innovation in cardiology and cardiac surgery is Domingo Liotta. Like Julio Palmaz, Liotta was born in Argentina to Italian parents. In 1958, Liotta created a prototype of the world’ first ever artificial heart. His invention caught the attention of world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, who hired Liotta to be chief of the Artificial Heart Program at Baylor College of Medicine. Modern heart assist devices are based off of Liotta’s original design, and continues to save lives.

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If You’ve Been Struggling with College During COVID, These Tips Might Help You Cope

Things That Matter

If You’ve Been Struggling with College During COVID, These Tips Might Help You Cope

fizkes / Getty Images

Covid-19 is changing the all-American college experience. There is no more late-night munchie runs at 3 a.m., house party hopping, or late-night cramming with friends in the library. The spirit has completely changed, but all for the greater good of keeping others healthy and safe.

Still, that doesn’t discredit the fact that we are losing the value of our education by it moving online. We’re no longer able to use the campus as a resource to help fuel ourselves academically or socially. We long for the day we are able to build a sense of community again.

Here’s how Covid has changed the college experience and what you can do to make it better.

The Move to Online

Credit: @gph/ Giphy

Being a college senior myself, remote learning has taken a huge toll on me. My days are lengthened with logging on to Zoom for everything, and yes- even my pair of blue-light glasses can’t keep me focused.

I find myself eagerly waiting for my professor to say “That’s it for today everyone,” and sometimes can only hang in there for half of the time. I’m constantly left feeling anxious and frustrated.

I was sure that universities would begin to understand how different students cope with a very tricky, unstable, and scary situation at hand. However, I’ve experienced the opposite. An overwhelming influx of papers, online assignments, and weekly quizzes quickly presented themselves. Not to mention more group projects. Weekends soon became “working-weekends” and with assignments piling up I truly felt like I was drowning.

It wasn’t long until I had to think for myself. How am I going to cope with the now? I needed to figure out the best plan I could to navigate something out of mine and everyone else’s control. If you too are struggling during this time whether it be financially, academically, emotionally, etc, please know you are not alone. Below are some resources that might help each day go by just a little better than the last, and hopefully give you peace of mind.

Finances:

COVID Emergency Assistance Funds

The last thing that we want to do is pay full price for online learning, especially during a pandemic. So check with your college or university about COVID Emergency Assistance/Relief Funds. This has greatly helped students access resources such as food, housing, course materials, technology, and affordable health care. In some cases, they even pay you to be at home. Additionally, FAFSA is allowing students to get even more aid granted despite if they were already given their semester disbursement- so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Visit your official college website & https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa for more information.

Scholarships

Trust me, we all could use a little help in this area. Luckily, Tuition Funding Sources’s (TFS) database connects students to monthly scholarships based on needs, wants, and qualifications. They have highlighted “scholarships of the day” as well as career aptitude tests that can help your search become even more personal.

Businesses are also partnering up right now to help students around the world get the support they need to further their education. The McDonald’s® HACER ® National Scholarship assists Latino students to be front and center and attain the education they deserve. In 2019, more than $500,000 was granted to 30 students in order to help finance tuition costs. And better yet, The 2020-2021 application period just opened October 5th.

For more information on how to apply for the listed scholarships, visit https://www.tuitionfundingsources.com  or https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/community/hacer.html .

Mental Health & Well-Being:

Headspace

This app is a lifesaver. From brief wellbeing exercises to longer guided meditation, Headspace is offering free downloadable tracks that can help you ease your mind at home or on-the-go anywhere and anytime. Tune in when you need a break or to re-center yourself.  

Visit https://www.headspace.com/covid-19 to see what tracks are available now.

Podcasts

Sometimes hearing someone speak and having an honest conversation about a certain topic is really fun to engage with. It provides us another perspective other than their are own, and it’s interesting to get a glimpse at the way other people live. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to listen to an episode can help ease some stress, reminding you that others are by your side who, too, have felt the same chaos.

For a great selection of podcasts, search Spotify or Apple Podcasts to start the search on some good series.

Be Patient with Yourself

Credit: @nbc/ Giphy

Remember, this pandemic is not forever although it might feel like it right now. Do not feel like you are responsible for the frustration you are undergoing. Take some time to care for yourself and take a step back from the craziness of the world to remind yourself that things will get better.

Talk to a friend, counselor, or therapist if you find yourself in a crisis more than you can bear. Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 service to anyone who needs some support and wants to speak with someone. What’s nice is you have the option to either call or text, depending on what’s most comfortable and effective for you. 

Visit https://www.crisistextline.org to get free 24/7 support whenever, wherever. 

Other Tips

Zoom Party

Credit: @snl / Giphy

Get-togethers are looking a lot different right now, but you can still plan an event that will keep all of your friends together. Zoom can be a wonderful platform not only for the classroom, but to catch up with everyone. Plan a “Whine Night” where you talk about all things life or vibe to shared music. Your university should give you an unlimited personal meeting room link so you don’t have to pay a dime for the time.

Virtual Social Hours

Many universities are offering virtual social hours so students can connect to each other and get more of a sense of community as we navigate through the days. Check online on your school’s website to see what types of activities they are offering students at this time, and what events might fit your personal or career interests.  You never know who you might meet!

Find Your Hobby 

Having a go-to hobby during this time can give you something to look forward to and be an escape from all the ongoing chaos. Look into things like surfing, socially distanced yoga classes, cooking, or hiking to get you feeling joyful and inspired. Try one thing out and see if you like it, and if not who says you can’t just move to the next thing? You’ll be surprised at what you discover will be your next “thing.”


The pandemic has definitely made college life and life, in general, a whole lot harder. Know that it is completely normal to feel mad, sad, scared, or anxious about what’s to come. With these tips, my only wish is that they help you cope just a bit more as they have for me. Together we will get through this, slowly but surely.

READ: A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

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This 12-Year-Old MENSA Member Is Starting His Sophomore Year of College But Stays Humble— ‘I Just Grasp Information Quickly’

Fierce

This 12-Year-Old MENSA Member Is Starting His Sophomore Year of College But Stays Humble— ‘I Just Grasp Information Quickly’

CBS

Twelve-year-old Caleb Anderson has a head on his shoulder that’s steering him towards a bright and brilliant future. Most kids Anderson’s age are diving headfirst into their 7th-grade year, he on the other hand is headed to college.

Back to college that is.

Anderson is currently enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College as a sophomore.

From Marietta, Georgia, he’s on track to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in two years. Speaking to CBS News for an interview the pre-treen remains humble and chalks up his success to being quick.

“I’m not really smart,” Caleb explained in his interview with the outlet. “I just grasp information quickly. So, if I learn quicker, then I get ahead faster.”

When it comes to pursuing his education, Anderson has his eyes set on a greater prize than just earning his bachelor’s degree. The 12-year-old is intent on heading off to Georgia Institute of Technology or the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He’s hoping to eventually wind up with an internship at Tesla working for SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

“When I was like 1, I always wanted to go to space,” Anderson said in a separate interview with USA Today. “I figured that aerospace engineering would be the best path.”

Just twelve and Anderson has made quite a few other accomplishments.

At just 9 months old he learned how to do American Sign Language began reading just a few months later. “I have this distinct memory of going to a first-grade class and learning there, and everyone was way taller than me, because, you know, I was 2,” he explained to USA Today. “I could barely walk!”

According to his interviews, Anderson began solving math equations by the time he reached his second birthday and qualified for MENSA at just 3 years old. MENSA is the largest and oldest high IQ society across the globe. The non-profit organization is open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized intelligence test. Members have included the likes of Geena Davis, Nolan Gould of “Modern Family,” and Joyce Carol Oates.

Explaining what it is like to raise a genius, Anderson’s father Kobi WKYC that he realized his kid was special when he began to speak to other parents.

“As we started to interact with other parents, and had other children, then we started to realize how exceptional this experience was because we had no other frame of reference,” Kobi explained. “He has far surpassed me in math, so I can’t help him anymore. Seriously! He’s in calculus two now!”

When it comes to her son, Anderson’s mother says that she hopes other parents see him as an example and that he inspires other Black children.

“I think people have a negative perspective when it comes to African-American boys,” she explained. “There are many other Calebs out there… African-American boys like him. From being a teacher — I really believe that. But they don’t have the opportunity or the resources.”

Check out Anderson’s interview below!

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