Monthly Archives: September 2019

Physiology in the Caribbean

Often people think of Puerto Rico just as a place to vacation, but they are wrong. There are many people living here who get up every day and work in a variety of areas looking towards the future like those who work in the fields of science and physiology. There are academic physiologists on our island that teach our new generations in the classroom but at the same time perform research. Students who choose to pursue a PhD degree can either stay on our island or continue to study in the United States. Once they are done they might either want to come back, stay in America or travel elsewhere. In many different places worldwide, you can find Puerto Ricans working towards giving back and improving our island, even if they cannot physically be here. When scientists decide to stay, we often want to encourage and educate our students to follow their passions. On our island at the K-12 level many of the students initially know about few career options and only want to be doctors or lawyers since that is all they have heard about from their parents or families. They don’t know that there are other careers available to them in the sciences. Some students go to college thinking “I’m afraid; I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m done. I don’t know if medicine is my dream” and it’s not until they take a research course that they decide, some of them, to change their careers. For this reason, outreach to the K-12 community is very important to us. In 2017, we were hit by a massive hurricane and a lot of the population subsequently migrated to the United States as our economy and resources were badly affected. However, we did not become discouraged. During 2017-2018 we still impacted more than 250 school students. We teach our k-12 community about science, and how to be able to see and experience physiology using different educational techniques, which envelop auditory memory, visual memory and kinesthetic memory to capture the students’ attention. We want to ensure that students are not overwhelmed by the amount of material in science classes. Often, it’s not the amount of material that is the problem but how the material is given, and how to provide relevant examples to students to keep their attention. We also haven’t forgotten about those who have already finished college and are already teaching these students. We have given workshops to approximately 40 teachers to enhance their incorporation of physiological concepts into the classroom in order to impact more students. Since students have different visual, auditory and kinesthetic memories we aim to provide the teachers with tools such as instruments or activities that can help students find science interesting and entertaining at the same time. With these steps we want to make sure that the next generation of Puerto Rican children have the knowledge and desire to follow our footsteps and pursue scientific careers on our island.

Before finishing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a math minor, I took a research course in my senior year. That course helped me to understand that what I wanted to pursue was a career in research. After undergraduate studies, I worked for six years as a laboratory technician and on many occasions my superiors suggested I enroll in a PhD program, but I thought that I was not prepared and I was very afraid to fail. Eventually I made the decision to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences and I loved it. I currently work at a university where undergraduate courses are predominantly offered and I continue to perform research related to obesity and depressive disorders. At my institution I began to understand the need for students to prepare and be competitive in their area. I also realized that the K-12 community is very important because it is our future, for this reason I spend part of my time bringing physiology concepts to schools.

Dr. Gladys Chompre

Associate Professor

Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico