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.

Here’s Why Everyone Is Celebrating This Chicago Teen And His Acceptance To Harvard

Culture

Here’s Why Everyone Is Celebrating This Chicago Teen And His Acceptance To Harvard

YeahThatsAmado / YouTube

As Latinos, making it through higher education is never easy. For some, there is the stress of being the first in our families to attend college or just being able to afford school in general. That’s why it’s special every time we hear about a fellow Latino’s success in the classroom. 

This applies to Amado Candelario, a Harvard freshman, who is proof of overcoming barriers and following your college dreams. The world was first introduced to him last December when he shared a “reaction video” on his YouTube channel showing the exact moment he found out he was accepted into Harvard. The emotional video quickly went viral with over 33K views to this date. For Candelario, who was raised by his immigrant mother from Mexico and two sisters in West Lawn, Chicago, Harvard was always his dream. 

“There were a lot of tears shed because it’s a big thing for somebody like me, for the community that I come from, to get accepted to a prestigious university like Harvard. For that, I’m grateful,” Candelario told 7NewsBoston after his video went viral.

First, let’s rewatch Amado Candelario finding out he got accepted to Harvard.

Some people sacrifice so much to make sure they get into their dream school. There is nothing more exciting than watching that hard work pay off for someone who deserves it. The world collectively celebrated for Candelario when he found out he was going to be in the new class at Harvard.

Getting into Harvard was one thing but fast forward almost a year later and Candelario is getting well-deserved recognition once again. 

Credit: lovedcandle / Instagram

For this young man, getting to college was reason enough to celebrate. Candelario came from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago where going to college isn’t always the first choice for many. He sought higher education as a way to escape his circumstances and build a better future for himself and his family. Beyond just getting accepted to Harvard he also needed a way to pay for it. According to the school’s website, the total 2018-2019 cost of attending Harvard University without financial aid is $67,580 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined.

“I needed to figure out how to provide for myself and how I could give back to my mom and to my family that has done so much for me, and college seemed like the way to do that,” he told NBC News. “The only thing people ever talked about when you mentioned was how good it was and how it was the best post-secondary education you could get. I grew up in a lot of poverty and violence and I wanted something better for myself.”

His background and everything he overcame to be where he is has left a lasting impact.

Credit: @lovedcandle / Twitter

Being one of the few low-income and first-generation students from Chicago in his graduating class has made Candelario a viral star once again. Few in his class to understand the magnitude of his achievement and now the world is taking notice. 

“I’m the only kid at Harvard right now, class of 2023, that’s from Chicago and didn’t go to a selective enrollment school, a private school, a predominately affluent suburban school,” Candelario wrote in a tweet that has received more than 87,000 likes as of today. “I’m the only Chicago neighborhood school kid. It’s sad but I DID THAT and I’m proud of myself!!”

Candelario is defying statistics when it comes to Latinos getting into Harvard. He is one of only less than 16 percent of a total of 4.5 percent of accepted applicants that got into Harvard in 2019.

Credit: lovedcandle / Instagram

Getting to this point was never easy for him. Candelario attended Eric Solorio Academy High School, which was located on the Southwest Side of Chicago, a notoriously low-income area. It was there that he joined various programs that helped guide him through the college application process and was assisted with financial aid assistance. 

The transition to college hasn’t been easy as well for Candelario. At times he feels like an outsider in a school where he’s one of very few that fully understand what it means to come to be a first-generation college student. These emotions have only fueled him to finish what is expected to be the first of many steps. While Candelario hasn’t declared an official concentration just yet, he told NBC News that he’s interested in pursuing political science and economics. He hopes with his education he can one day become a lawyer and help those that come from marginalized backgrounds.

“I feel like for kids who come from marginalized backgrounds, being realistic can limit them,” Candelario told NBC News. “I feel like you have to dream big and tell your intentions to the world. All of high school, even as a freshman, I told people I wanted to go to Harvard. I put it in my Instagram bio, even though I wasn’t accepted. There’s something powerful about manifesting and verbalizing what you want and telling yourself you are capable of that.”

READ: JLo Totally Dragged Some Super Stars In A 1998 Interview That’s Now Going Viral And OMG The Shade

In An Effort To Eliminate Food Waste We Will Soon Have Access To Avocados That Stay Fresh For 30 Days

Culture

In An Effort To Eliminate Food Waste We Will Soon Have Access To Avocados That Stay Fresh For 30 Days

Apeel Sciences / YouTube

American demand for avocados is so great—and the supply so precious—that restaurants have had to cut guacamole corners in recent months. Like it’s seriously getting tough out there. 

We’ve got taquerias from LA to Mexico City spreading fake guac (aka mock guac) on our tacos and burritos. While white folk from Australia to the UK are suffering from an epidemic of so-called ‘avocado hand.’ And cartels are killing farmers for their agricultural lands hoping to get in on the avocado boom. 

Avocados have long been a favorite of people around the world but all of us have often shared one common complaint – our lovely avocados spoil way too damn fast. Well, finally, one company is trying to fix that issue and it looks like 30 day avocados could be here in the very near future.

Because every last avocado counts, grocery store chain Kroger has debuted avocados sprayed with a new, plant-based coating designed to keep produce fresh longer.

Credit: Apeel Sciences

Kroger announced this week that the powdered coating comes from a company called Apeel, and when mixed with water and sprayed onto produce, it keeps oxygen out, prolonging the time before the fruit or vegetable spoils. It’s also being applied to asparagus and limes in a small percentage of Kroger stores. The company hopes the longer-lasting produce will eliminate food waste not only in people’s kitchens, but in the stores themselves.

Apeel Sciences has figured out how to extend the salad days of fruits and vegetables — and it’s bringing the technology to the avocado aisle of 1,100 Kroger grocery stores in the US, starting this month. 

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

The extra longevity comes from Apeel‘s special, plant-derived formulation that’s applied — like a second skin — to a variety of produce. The process can double or, in some cases, triple shelf life. The companies expect the partnership to prevent millions of avocados annually from ending up in landfills.

Kroger, the largest grocery retailer in the US, began selling Apeel avocados exclusively in 109 of its stores earlier this year. Because of the resulting reduction in waste, Apeel says its avocados cost the same or less than other avocados. 

A video posted in March compares the lifespans of Apeel fruits and vegetables — including asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, bananas and limes — with that of their untreated counterparts.

So far, Apeel has developed formulations for about 50 different kinds of produce including apples, artichokes, bananas, beans, blueberries and tomatoes. The company also announced today that it would begin selling limes and asparagus in Kroger’s stores around Cincinnati, Ohio, later this fall. 

Kroger and Apeel both cite lofty aims with their collaboration. Kroger has promoted the initiative under its “Zero Hunger/Zero Waste” program that raises money to mitigate hunger and reduce food waste. In the US, roughly one in eight people struggle with hunger and between 30% and 40% of the food produced is thrown away

There are also environmental benefits.

Credit: Unsplash

Apeel and Kroger expect the partnership to help prevent millions of avocados from ending up in landfills, which should help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. They also predict that the deal will save over one billion gallons of water and help preserve dozens of acres of farmland.

Although not everyone is happy about the idea.

Credit: Fruitnet.com / Screenshot

One Twitter user said: “My issue isn’t that grocery store avocados go bad, it’s that they never ripen at all. I bought a bunch of avocados yesterday and I’m hoping I’ll have ripe ones by Spring.” 

Ok, by Spring? That might be a little dramatic but I think we can all relate. You get to the market and they either have mushy, brown, already spoiled avocados covered in flies or they’re hard as a rock and that delicious guacamole you planned on making tonight to go with those tacos just isn’t happening.