Harvey Mudd Presents Science for Social Justice in Puerto Rico, Sept. 12

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As part of its continuing exploration of science and social justice issues, Harvey Mudd College will highlight the contributions of three science professionals contributing to the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María. They’ll participate in a panel discussion Thursday, Sept. 12, at 4:15 p.m. in Drinkward Recital Hall, R. Michael Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning.

Biologist and science educator Greetchen Díaz-Muñoz, climate scientist Juan Declet-Barreto and ecologist Bolívar Aponte-Rolón use their education and expertise to aid grassroots movements, develop future scientists, assist with Hurricane Maria recovery and more.

Alyssa Newman

Alyssa Newman

Event organizer Alyssa Newman, a sociologist and the 2018–2020 Hixon-Riggs Early Career Fellow in Science and Technology Studies at HMC, sees the event as a way to highlight the College’s mission of educating scientists, engineers and mathematicians who have a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.

“The panelists will explore different ways to be conscious of this impact, including finding a career/organization specifically dedicated to applying science for social justice or mobilizing around specific events, such as natural disasters like Hurricane Maria,” says Newman. “I know that students are eager to find ways to apply their knowledge, skills and potentially their careers toward social justice objectives, and this panel will offer a variety of examples of different disciplines and career paths.”

The three science professionals will share their approaches to scientific outreach, education, promotion and communication.

Greetchen Díaz-MuñozGreetchen Díaz-Muñoz, a longtime volunteer of Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR), is now the director of its Science Education Program and Community Partnerships. She has participated in numerous projects in science communication, science outreach and science education. In 2015, she was the coordinator of Semillas de Triunfo (Seeds of Success), the first STEM Ambassador Program for middle school girls in Puerto Rico, and she is founder of two STEM-related blogs, Borinqueña and Ciencia a tu alrededor. Before CienciaPR, she worked for Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, where she implemented the first local grants mechanism in Puerto Rico and coordinated outreach activities. Díaz-Muñoz is president of the Puerto Rico Society of Microbiologists and a board member of the American Society for Microbiology.

Juan Declet-BarretoJuan Declet-Barreto is a Kendall Science Fellow for the Climate & Energy program and the Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists. He was a climate and health research fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he helped link climate change to adverse health impacts, with special attention on low-income communities and communities populated predominantly by people of color. He partners with environmental justice groups and activists to research the potential effects of carbon trading on disadvantaged communities as individual states begin implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. His research maps, analyzes and finds solutions to the unequal human health and livelihood impacts of environmental hazards, particularly those exacerbated by climate change.

Bolívar Aponte-RolónBolívar Aponte-Rolón studies bacterial and fungal endophytic communities in tropical forests and mangrove ecosystems as part of his PhD studies at Tulane University. He is co-coordinator of Science for the People (a Science for Puerto Rico National Working Group), which led a solidarity brigade to Puerto Rico in 2018. He and the other volunteers sought to support recovery efforts and help create a new social economy that is sustainable and beneficial to the people of Puerto Rico. During the 10-day trip, Science for the People worked with host organization Güakiá, which practices agroecology and promotes sustainable agricultural practices, food accessibility, farmer well-being and positive farmer-community relationships.

The Science for Social Justice in Puerto Rico event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by Harvey Mudd’s Hixon-Riggs Program for Responsive Science and Engineering and the Office of Institutional Diversity. For more information, contact amnewman@g.hmc.edu.