Fulbright Scholar Dr. Jacques Clerville Is Applying Epidemiology To Improve Haiti’s Public Health System

Dr. Jacques Clerville is a former Fulbright scholar and Haitian primary care physician, with a master of public health in epidemiology from University of South Carolina, Arnold School. Today, Dr. Clerville is Haiti’s chief assistant of infectious diseases epidemiologic surveillance within the Ministry of Health and Population.

While Jacques Clerville was writing a medical prescription for a patient in the town of Les Cayes, he felt his work environment tremble for a few seconds. It was the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. Although Les Cayes was spared, thousands of people in Port-au-Prince lost their lives or were completely homeless. And that was not all, the aftermath of the earthquake led to a major consequence: an outbreak of cholera devastated the island almost 10 months later causing many deaths. As a physician facing these unprecedented challenges, Dr. Clerville began to see the need to deepen his knowledge in epidemic diseases.

In seeking to more effectively help the population, Clerville joined Doctors Without Borders, which established a cholera treatment center in Les Cayes. “This experience completely changed my perspective on health care and public health. I realized that I was limited with my skills and clinical knowledge,” he says.

It was then that Clerville applied and was later selected among the ten best candidates to attend a year-long intensive training program in Infectious Diseases and HIV, funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) and in a partnership with the Université Notre Dame d’Haiti.

“Since then, I have seen epidemiology as a means to provide evidence-based information to improve medical and public health practice, particularly in Haiti where there is a lack of scientific literature.”

Born in Les Cayes, Dr. Cleville moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he earned a medical degree from the Université Notre-Dame d’Haiti. After he completed his seven-year program with one year of social work, he started working in his hometown as a practicing primary care physician.

After the earthquake, he applied for a Fulbright scholarship through the U.S. Embassy in Haiti to pursue a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology. “The Fulbright scholarship allowed me to pursue one of my dreams, which is to study in the United States.” Accepted at three universities in the United States, Clerville chose the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina (USC), because he knew it was one of the best public health programs in the country. At USC, he studied in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, participated in global health conferences and adapted his course with a focus on public health surveillance systems.

Clerville completed his degree, returned to Haiti and, most importantly he has been able to apply what he learned in the work field. “The Fulbright scholarship program is the stepping stone that helped me get a leadership position at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.”, he says. Recently, Clerville has been involved in monitoring and evaluation, conducting site visits and overseeing the Epidemiological Surveillance Officers. He also has been attending project management-related workshops to increase capacity and success in health-related projects.

With the knowledge and skills he has acquired, Clerville dreams higher: he wants to teach Epidemiology at the university level. Indeed, he carries a lifelong mantra that he is fully committed to helping the Haitian people and making a difference into their lives by improving the health system.

Dr. Clerville is lecturing on how to analyze and display epidemiological surveillance data to Epidemiological Surveillance Officers (OSE) at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.


Using Peer Instruction To Strengthen Physics Teaching With Natalia Murillo-Quirós

Natalia Murillo-Quirós is Professor of Physics at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

Natalia Murillo-Quirós was frustrated. Since she began teaching at Tecnológico de Costa Rica, the physics professor sensed that her students were not taking full advantage of her class.

Overall performance was stagnant, and students seemed to commit the same errors on exams over and over again.

Murillo-Quirós has a deep appreciation for the field of physics and its potential to answer questions about the world and how it ticks. The desire to share this message is one of the factors that led her to teaching in the first place. With some dismay, she realized this message hadn’t reached her own students.

Something needed to change.

Determined to awaken her classroom, Murillo-Quirós and a handful of her fellow professors sought out Laspau to participate in the University Innovation program, Strengthening Physics Teaching, in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the spring of 2015. During the program, Murillo-Quirós participated in discussions with professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Olin College to learn new teaching methodologies that would help her better engage her students. Murillo-Quirós even had the opportunity to sit in on physics classes and see the teaching methods in action.

After her three day-long intensive with Laspau, Murillo-Quirós returned to Costa Rica armed with a new teaching model: Peer Instruction for Active Learning. Created by Harvard Physics and Applied Physics professor, Eric Mazur, one of the program’s featured speakers, the Peer Instruction method, as the name suggests, asks professors to center their curriculum around discussions instead of lectures so students may learn from their peers. With this new idea in mind, Murillo-Quirós encouraged her students to read material before class and to come prepared to participate in class discussions.

After just a short time with the Peer Instruction for Active Learning, Murillo-Quirós noticed a real change in her classroom. Students now appear more confident come exam day and seem more interested and in touch with course materials. No longer is Murillo-Quirós’ classroom a place of sleepy students but one alive with engagement and interaction.

“With this model, I have feelings that I have never had in eleven years of teaching,” Murillo-Quirós explains.

Putting a new teaching method into place has brought some difficulties, perhaps the most notable has been the resistance to change by the students, who, after having learned via lectures for years, may feel uncertain at the moment starting a discussion and defending their ideas. I insist that, even though it may get them out of their comfort zone, that’s a good thing, because it prepares them for their professional lives beyond the classroom. As the semester progresses, they gain a better understanding, however, at the beginning students often need constant encouragement.

Another factor to consider is the work involved for the professor in changing the teaching methodology, including creating new classes. Any teacher will understand how time-consuming it can be and Murillo-Quirós recommends generating networks with colleagues and sharing resources to help reduce the amount of time needed.

Even taking into account the challenges she has experienced and those that may come, Murillo-Quirós feels the time she has invested has been worth, “After applying peer instruction in my classroom, I can’t, nor do I wish to, return to lecture style classes. It wouldn’t make sense for me as a professor.”

Encouraged by the positive change, Murillo-Quirós plans to continue using Peer Instruction with the hope of spreading her love for problem solving and physics to future students.

Fulbright Scholar is on a Path to Change the World of Impossibilities for People with Disabilities

Fulbright scholar Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro is changing the world for people with disabilities through his pioneering work. He earned a master’s degree through a Laspau-administered Fulbright Program in international business from the Florida International University (FIU). Today, Betancourt is a professor at the Universidad de La Sabana in his native Colombia, CEO-Founder of NKLUSVLIFE, and a member of a large network of institutions that promote inclusion such as Fulbright Colombia and Saldarriaga Concha Foundation.

Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro has a vision of changing the world for people with disabilities. He is working with local governments and businesses to create more accessible facilities for individuals using wheelchairs, and has proved that there are economic benefits to creating a more inclusive community, especially in places like restaurants, public malls, bars, pubs, universities and even sports arenas.

Betancourt, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, knows firsthand the challenges of living with a disability. He has an incomplete spinal cord injury C4/C5 which happened in 2003 during his senior year in high school on a trip with his classmates. “I dove into the pool and broke my neck, after hitting my head at the bottom of the pool. When I woke up I was already in the hospital. During the last month or two of my rehab sessions, I asked myself, “What am I going to do with my life now?”

Because he has always been a disciplined and erudite student, Juan decided to continue his education after high school graduation. He pursued undergraduate studies in international business at the Universidad de La Sabana, one of the top universities in Bogotá, and coincidentally, located right next to his rehabilitation facility. Near the end of his undergraduate studies, Betancourt was part of an internship program at Unilever, a global company that produces consumer goods for their supply management team. Betancourt worked in the logistical component for products like Dove and Lipton Tea. Soon after, he worked for several companies as an independent consultant and marketing strategist, including a floral company, which supplies flowers to all Walmart stores in the United States.

“I’m trying to change the way people in Bogotá, Colombia, see people with disabilities. Instead of just seeing a disabled person, I hope they see this person as someone who can bring benefits to companies, communities, and overall be productive in our society.”

As Betancourt succeeded in his professional life, he considered the possibility of going back to school to pursue graduate studies, not in Colombia, but abroad. Betancourt’s closest acquaintances highly encouraged him to take the risk and provided the full support needed for his journey. While working for the floral company, he applied for the Fulbright scholarship program, “I applied first in 2010 when I was finishing my undergraduate studies, but I not was not eligible for the scholarship because at that time, I didn’t have my bachelor’s degree yet. After my undergraduate graduation in 2011, I applied for the second time and received a wonderful news from Fulbright stating that I had been selected to pursue master’s degree in international business at Florida International University.” While at FIU, Betancourt interned with Sony, Latin America for 4 months.

Taking into account that the Fulbright Program requires the scholar to return to his home country upon the academic studies completion and apply the knowledge acquired abroad, Juan Sebastian needed to figure out what to do next when moving back to Colombia. He had two options in mind: apply for a job in Colombia or become an entrepreneur. In May 2015, one month after he returned to Colombia, he founded his own company, NKLUSVLIFE, a company that offers marketing, brand management and consulting to promote a profitable and sustainable business while being inclusive and accessible. As a successful entrepreneur, Betancourt currently balances his work as a professor of emerging markets at the Universidad de La Sabana, the same institution where he pursued his undergraduate studies.

Betancourt has a clear vision for the future and thinks big. He wants to the view of people with disabilities and their potential to contribute to society. In addition to changing the experience of people with disabilities in Colombia, Betancourt is also thinking beyond his own country. “One day, I would like to work with wheelchair sports teams, leagues and national teams to set up their travel plans. When people with disabilities go to other countries to participate in sports and/or vacations, we can inform them about inclusive places and provide logistical advice such as hotels, restaurants and attractions that can comfortably accommodate this particular population. I am very committed to this idea and I know this dream has potential to become true.”

Betancourt fully embraced his Fulbright experience and has advice for scholars and dreamers like him, “It is a once in a lifetime experience and you would be surprised about the level of cultural insight, perspective and general understanding you get from the process. It is a chance as well to be part of something unique where you can apply your recent knowledge and change the world for better. Treasure those moments, experience new things, keep new friends that come to your life and get ready to be ambitious and make the world a better place. Find your purpose in life and contribute for a common goal that transcends in later generations.”

Read more stories about Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro!

Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities by wheel-life.org
Mobility: an Nklusion subject by Solkes
Millennials que dejan huella by El Tiempo

Learn more about NKLUSVLIFE!

Website: www.nklusvlife.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NKLUSVLIFE/ 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nklusvlife/ 


Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo is Finding New Ways to Tell Important Stories

Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo of Colombia is studying Digital Journalism at Northeastern University.

When Jorge Caraballo was in his first year of college at Universidad de Antioquia in his native Colombia, he imagined himself in the future as a lawyer, a “serious” profession that he felt would keep him close to his real passions of literature and the human experience. After a few months, it became clear to him that the field was simply not for him, “My backpack was not loaded with law textbooks but with the books of García Márquez, Kafka, and Borges.” His discontent Caraballo set off looking for a profession that allowed him to pursue his true passions. Lucky for him, he found it just a few buildings away in the School of Journalism. “It was kind of a revelation when I understood that being a journalist meant that I could go deep in whatever topic I wanted or that I could read any book and story, if after doing that I was able to communicate why was it meaningful to me. From the beginning, I assumed Journalism both as a pleasure and a social responsibility” Caraballo shares.

His passion for storytelling led him to pursue a Fulbright scholarship for graduate studies at Northeastern University. His current academic work focuses on how digital tools and multimedia storytelling can improve the way journalists inform and engage with communities. For Caraballo, this is not a purely academic pursuit.

“Colombia has one of the longest civil wars in the world, and for the past five years has been in a process of healing wounds and finding peace… I want to contribute to that process, and I think that nonfiction storytelling can be an effective strategy to build peace. Stories can help to expand a person’s range of emotions and make her or him feel what others are feeling. In a polarized society, doing that in the right way can have an enormous impact.”

He sees his studies at Northeastern are critical to his future plans of returning to Colombia to participate in efforts to improve social cohesion creating a digital medium that informs and engage Colombians and help them recognize themselves after a long armed conflict.

Throughout his program, Laspau’s help has been essential. “Laspau’s biggest contribution has been that it has done all what’s possible to keep my attention on what’s important –my studies and cultural exchange– and it has helped me to easily navigate all the formalities of being an international student in the U.S.”

After completing his program, Caraballo hopes to spend a year working in a media company in the US in order to learn from the tradition of strong journalism in the country and focus on issues he’s passionate about: social justice, race, inequality, arts and culture. Once he returns to Colombia, it seems clear that he will bring a wealth of new skills and knowledge from his experiences both in and outside of the classroom.

Yves Vilton is making healthcare in Haiti safer

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Yves Vilton is a Fulbright scholar with a degree in Regulatory and Clinical Research from Regis College. While at Regis College, he participated in the Regis College Haiti Project to help relief efforts in his home country of Haiti. Today, Vilton is the Senior Technical Advisor in the Management Services for the Health Department at the State University of Haiti.

“Today is the best day of my life,” Fulbright Scholar, Yves Vilton, announces while standing on the front lawn of Regis College’s campus. Dressed in his graduation robes, Vilton can’t help but smile. “Today is the best day of my life because today I get my diploma.”

Born in rural Haiti to a large family of twelve children, Vilton learned early on that education was the answer to achieving a successful future.

“With education, everything is possible,” Vilton states, a mantra he learned from his mother.

Despite being unable to read, and despite her family’s limited access to educational resources, Vilton’s mother encouraged all of her children to learn how to read and to pursue a higher level education. Fueled by his mother’s determination, Vilton, at the young age of ten, left his childhood home to attend school in Haiti’s capital. While in school, Vilton did not let any obstacle keep him from enhancing his knowledge, sometimes even resorting to the light of a candle to read his textbooks when he could no longer afford to pay the electricity bill.

Vilton would go on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Studies from the State University of Haiti. In the years that followed, Vilton taught at his alma mater, worked as the Health and Supply Chain Manager for Catholic Relief Services, the Head of the Pharmacy Department at the State University of Haiti and as a Pharmacist for a World Health Organization project.

But Vilton wanted to do more.

In 2010, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake that contributed to the country’s pre-existing poverty and caused a massive death toll. Vilton, saddened by the lack of resources and national assistance, decided that he needed to take action and help the people of his country.

“Stop everything,” Vilton told himself. “Stop your job, stop your work and now go get more knowledge, then go back to try and change the system… I need to have a better education to help my people, to be able to help my country.”

Vilton approached the Dean from the State University of Haiti and asked how he may be able to further his education in Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research in the United States. The Dean directed Vilton to Laspau. After being granted the scholarship, Laspau matched Vilton with the Regulatory and Clinical Research Management Program at Regis College in Massachusetts, where he received a full waiver of tuition.

“I need to have a better education to help my people, to be able to help my country.”

Although far from home, Vilton was still able to help his country by participating in the Regis College Haiti Project, a program in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Health, the nonprofit Partners in Health, and with private and public nursing school leaders in Haiti, that trains nurses and aims to advance nursing education in Haiti.

“Laspau and Fulbright want you to do your best, to use all the potential you have,” Vilton explains as fellow graduates walk across the lawn behind him. “They want you to learn from a big university, a prestigious university here in the United Sates and they want you to do the best that you can and go back. And I promise, I will go back and do my best to use what I have learned.”

Today, Vilton is doing just that. As Senior Technical Advisor in the Management Sciences for Health Department at the State University of Haiti, Vilton manages the family planning project of Supply Chain Management Systems (SCMS) by providing technical expertise and leadership.

Watch our interview with Yves Vilton


Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar João Seixas de Medeiros is engineering the ships of future

João Seixas de Medeiros is a Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar and a PhD candidate currently studying ocean engineering at MIT. His most recent project focuses on unconventional ship design and wave energy extraction.

For the past year, Ciências sem Fronteiras scholar and PhD candidate, João Seixas de Medeiros, has been studying ocean engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The main focus of his research centers around unconventional ship design and wave energy extraction. Currently, Seixas de Medeiros, along with his research team of students, are constructing a small, remote-controlled boat that can minimize the resistance of waves, and handle heavy weight. Their machine has proven steady in wavelike conditions and speedy in still water conditions.

The project, initiated by Seixas de Medeiros’s advisor and funded by the MIT robotics team, requires a ton of time, energy, and team collaboration. Throughout the project’s implementation Seixas de Medeiros has discovered the importance of working with people from fields beyond just engineering to produce a successful product.

Organization of American States Scholar Desmond Campbell is Advancing Education in Jamaica

Desmond Campbell is a former OAS scholar, and a graduate of Hamline University where he earned a master’s degree in environmental studies. Currently, Campbell works as a professor at Moneague College in Moneague, Jamaica, and has implemented many educational projects there.

National Science Fair in Jamaica; Moneague College placed second in tertiary category

Desmond Campbell, a former Organization of American Studies (OAS) scholar, has always been the type of person to seek out leadership roles, never settling to idle in the background. While pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Natural Science and Environmental Educations from Hamline University, Campbell played an active role in his campus community.

“I was the first secretary of the newly formed Hamline International Graduate Student Association (HIGSA) and pulled off success after seventeen years of failed attempts by other students,” Campbell shares.

In addition, Campbell participated as the only student in a Faculty Diversity Reading Circle to assist in the electing the first female president in Hamline University’s history, an accomplishment he is very proud of.

Since graduating, Campbell continues to make an impact in his home country of Jamaica in whatever way he can. Currently, Campbell serves as a professor of environmental science at Moneague College. There, he initiated two different projects: the Environmental Studies Program, a program that, after its establishment, allowed students be certified at both the Associate of Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, and heads the Food Security Project.

Despite the tremendous progress Campbell has created at Moneague, the ambitious leader strove to accomplish more beyond the college’s walls.
“Annually I lead explorative, educational, professional development workshops,” Campbell explains. The workshops take teachers from Jamaica to join others in the United States for an annual Rivers Institute interactive workshop designed to increase teachers’ knowledge in water related content, STEM investigational skills, and literacy skills.

Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University
Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University

To further his mission of enhancing the quality of education, Campbell has implemented a teachers exchange program and a student exchange program between institutions in the United States, Europe, and Jamaica.

All of this work has led to Campbell’s recognition as Moneague’s 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award, and the 2011 National Award for “Champion Environmental Teacher” by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). He is currently the North central Chairman of the Association of Science Teachers of Jamaica (ASTJ); co-chairs the St Ann Hi-Tech farmers Group and now serve Moneague College as Principal Lecturer and Head of Department.
As for the future, Campbell has no plans of slowing down. When asked what hopes to accomplish next in his professional and academic career, Campbell explains he plans to implement more programs especially those with international focus and to pursue post graduate studies applicable to national and international development and sustainability.

If his past perseverance is any indication, he is capable of achieving whatever goals he sets for himself.

Fulbrighter Everardo Rivera is making university more accessible in El Salvador

Jose Everardo Rivera Bonilla (Ever, as called by family & friends) is a Fulbright scholar with a degree in Political Science – International Relations from New York University (NYU). Today Rivera Bonilla is Provost of Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN) in his home country of El Salvador. ESEN comes from a remarkable and decisive effort of the private sector that is engaged with improving the quality of higher education in El Salvador. This effort has been led since the beginning by Ricardo Poma, a Salvadoran visionary leading regional businessman. Therefore, Ever is contributing at ESEN towards providing a higher education to students regardless of income, religious beliefs, or political views.

Since he was ten years old, Fulbright Scholar Jose Everardo Rivera Bonilla was determined to find a way to serve his country of El Salvador. He contemplated the military (because of his grandpa) and he contemplated medicine (because of an uncle & a cousin). His priest, sensing Rivera Bonilla’s potential, even suggested the possibility of President. Eventually, he decided to study business and economics at Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN) with the hope of gaining valuable leadership skills.

Completing his studies at ESEN only intensified Rivera Bonilla’s hunger for learning. After graduation, he spent six months in Toronto to practice his English skills, and he later received a scholarship to study Applied Macroeconomics and Public Policy in Chile (at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile).

With two Masters’ degrees, it was no surprise when the Academic Director of ESEN (Daniel Wisecarver) called and offered Rivera Bonilla a full time position. At just twenty-six years old, he became a full time professor at El Salvador’s best business school. While teaching at ESEN, Rivera Bonilla decided to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. After being granted the scholarship, Laspau helped match him to the Political Science – International Relations Program at New York University.

“Indeed, I feel a huge responsibility because of the opportunity that I was given. Thus, I want to give back and share my experiences with younger generations.”

“It was simply amazing and unforgettable what I felt on that day,” Rivera Bonilla explains when he thinks back to the morning he received news of his acceptance to the program. “I will always be, definitely, thankful to Fulbright and Laspau… I was given the chance to develop an international understanding through meeting people, lots of them, friends now, with whom I am still in touch.”

Rivera Bonilla makes a point to visit New York City at least once a year to say hello to these friends and to walk through the streets of a city so different from those of San Salvador.

“Indeed, I feel a huge responsibility because of the opportunity that I was given. Thus, I want to give back and share my experiences with younger generations.”

Today Rivera Bonilla holds the position of Provost at ESEN where he is fulfilling his childhood goal of serving his country by providing an education to young and ambitious Salvadorans regardless of income, religious beliefs, or political views. Rivera Bonilla and ESEN’s team have pushed to increase internship opportunities for his students and has strengthened the university’s job placement program. ESEN can boast that one hundred percent of its alumni receive job offers within six months of graduation.

As for the future? Always striving for further knowledge, Rivera Bonilla has the interest of learning and contributing in government and politics someday. Who knows? Maybe Rivera Bonilla will serve as El Salvador’s next president, as predicted by his catholic priest. But for now, Rivera Bonilla is very happy and thankful with the opportunity of learning from an amazing team and being in touch with younger generations of Salvadorans through his dynamic and challenging work at his beloved alma mater.

Fulbrighter Alejandro Salazar-Villegas is fighting climate change from the ground up

Alejandro Salazar-Villegas is a Fulbright scholar currently studying biological sciences at Purdue University. His research focuses on understanding how microbes influence global climate via soil respiration and their responses to climate change. Although very busy at Purdue, Salazar has found the time to initiate an international climate change meeting to be held in his home country of Colombia during the fall of 2016.

When discussing climate change, dirt is not typically the first thing that comes to mind. But for Fulbright scholar, Alejandro Salazar-Villegas, soil has been the primary focus of his studies at Purdue University.

“Soil is the most biologically active layer of the planet, it has been globally colonized by the most abundant and diverse life-form on earth: microorganisms” Salazar explains when asked about the importance of studying soil, a seemingly unimportant element to the general public, but really a substantial signifier that can shed light on the coming effects of climate change.

For the past three years, Salazar has been working under Purdue University professor Jeffrey Dukes, leader of the Jeff Duke’s Lab and the Boston Area Climate Experiment (BACE). Salazar, along with his fellow research team members, have been studying how terrestrial ecosystems respond and feed back to climate change. Societies rely on this type of information to prepare for further changes in global and regional climate. Currently, the majority of Salazar’s days are spent analyzing samples from BACE, a long-term climate-change experiment that simulates twelve different climate scenarios in a New England old-field ecosystem. In this experiment, different areas of the same ecosystem have been exposed for several years to different temperature and precipitation regimes using rain-exclusion shelters and ceramic heaters. The warming and precipitation treatments in this experiment were designed based on climate change predictions for this century. Salazar is especially interested in understanding how these treatments are affecting microbes in soil the way they feed back to climate via soil respiration.

“In order to answer questions about climate change on a global scale, collaborations are crucial.  You need to share and compare data from experiments collected in many different sites and under different circumstances.”

Environmental issues have always been of interest to Salazar. Before attending Purdue to pursue his PhD in biological sciences, Salazar studied industrial production of biodegradable polymers (or biopolymers) using microbes at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

“The research that I did before coming to Purdue was similar to the research I’m currently doing in the way that I studied the influence of external, abiotic factors on several microbial processes. However, the focus of my current research is on the production of CO2 (in the context of climate change) rather than on the production of biopolymers” Salazar shares.

Salazar’s passion for science goes beyond just his research studies. Throughout his time at Purdue, Salazar has participated in the Project Interchange, a mentorship collaboration between Purdue and Colombian high schools. Through this project, Salazar helps introduce students from his home country to different types of STEM research, and shows them the opportunities that are available to them when choosing an education in one of the STEM fields.

Salazar,Alejandro-SmIn addition to the Project Interchange, Salazar is also organizing a three-day climate change meeting to be held this fall in Medellin, Colombia. INTERCAMBIO – International Conference on Atmosphere-Biosphere Interactions, will host speakers from Purdue University, Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Eafit, the Florida International University, University of Exeter, Universidad del Rosario, and the School of Engineering of Antioquia. One of the main goals of this meeting is to promote scientific discussion and collaborative networking among climate change researchers in Colombia, and foster their interactions with researchers at Purdue University.

“It’s grown to be something much greater than I expected,” Salazar proudly admits. “In order to answer questions about climate change on a global scale, collaborations are crucial.  You need to share and compare data from experiments collected in many different sites and under different circumstances.”

With still a few years left at Purdue University, Salazar has only just begun thinking about his next steps. At the moment, he is very content with his work and his research team. He wants to continue studying climate change after graduation, and plans to continue his research back in Colombia.

Organization of American States Scholar Michelle Wauchope is Making our Water Safer

Michelle Wauchope-Thompson is an Organization of American States Scholar from Jamaica who is pursuing a PhD through the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

During her childhood, Michelle Wauchope-Thompson dreamed of making a difference and helping people in the medical profession. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology at the University of West Indies, Mona and then going on to obtain a nursing diploma, anyone would have said she was well on her way. However, it was at this very moment that Michelle had an important realization: she did not want to continue in nursing but was instead interested in environmental sustainability. This understanding would start her on an educational path that would eventually land her almost 3000 miles away from her native Jamaica at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

Michelle Wauchope working in a cold room in the laboratory at University of Saskatchewan.

Currently, Michelle is completing her PhD in Environment and Sustainability and is a student member of the Global Institute for Water Security, an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on sustainable use of the world’s water resources and protection against natural hazards such as flood and drought. Water security is a key issue for global efforts towards environmental sustainability and ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” is among the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. Specifically, Michelle’s current research examines water quality, as well the rate of release of certain nutrients (such as phosphorus) in lakes, ponds and river systems to better understand seasonal and climate changes.

Michelle had always been interested in environmental sustainability, and accepted a job offer as a Quality Assurance Technician while studying her Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, Jamaica that narrowed her focus to issues of water security. For the first time, she was exposed to the areas of water chemistry, soil chemistry, waste water management and potable water management. This experience, combined with her studies, support from her family and mentors and a childhood spent outdoors in an island nation, made her surer than ever that she wanted to purse environmental sustainability with a focus on water security.

Michelle wanted to continue her studies at the PhD level but knew that studying abroad on her own would be financially out of reach. Luckily, Michelle’s advisor at NCU suggested she apply to the Organization of American States Scholarship which was awarded to pursue a PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. Michelle still has several years of study and research ahead of her but she is already planning ways she can positively impact her home country. She hopes to focus on natural resource management when she returns in order to help Jamaica reach its goals as outlined in the Vision 2030 National Development Plan.

For individuals who are considering applying to a scholarship abroad as she did, Michelle offers sage advice and encouragement: “Go for it! Do not think you are not worthy of applying or cannot get a scholarship, you won’t know unless you try.”