This November I went to Jamaica for education outreach. It was my first time in Jamaica and also doing outreach. While in the beginning I was not sure how it would be, I just have to say that I love it! It was a very interesting and rewarding experience.
How I got involved in this education outreach?
There are lots of outreach opportunities at NESCent. This year I was invited to do education outreach in Jamaica by Jory Weintraub who is the Assistant Director of Education and Outreach at NESCent. So I could have some experience in teaching basic concepts in evolution for high school teachers and also show some of my research to high school students.
When it happened?
Jory, Elvis and I arrived in Kingston, Jamaica on the 25th November. Yes, because I didn’t travel alone… we were a team of three people.
Evolution Workshop for high school teachers happened in Kingston (26th and 27th November), and in Montego Bay (2nd and 3rd December).
Why this workshop for high school teachers?
They are reformulating the curriculum for high school students in the Caribbean islands. This workshop was developed to make teachers more confident in teaching evolution as this subject is now included in the curriculum.
I was responsible to teach about Biodiversity and Biogeography, Jamaican Examples of Evolution, Primate Evolution, and Virus Evolution and Evolutionary Medicine. You can check the power point presentations here. In each of these four topics I also gave examples of my own work through all this 12 years as a scientist.
What else happened during this time in Jamaica?
We also visited high schools in Kingston, and one of the schools was not in a very safe area, for example.
We talked to students about evolution, and I presented the work I did during my Ph.D. in Australia on the evolution of pigs and their endogenous retroviruses.
But I also talked about my path to be a scientist, because I wanted to be a role model for these students.
I am from a non-wealthy family in Brazil and both my parents only completed primary school. After I finished high school I didn’t know what to study for a bachelor degree, as in Brazil we have to choose a course in advance. Because I was not sure, I started a Bachelor degree in Computer Sciences, but one year later I switched course. In 2000 I started a bachelor degree of Microbiology and Immunology at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. In 2004 I began my Masters in Molecular and Cell Biology at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, also in Brazil. During this time, my supervisor (Dr. Cibele R. Bonvicino) convinced me to do my Ph.D. overseas. After carefully thinking I decided to apply for a fellowship in Australia, and in 2006 I was granted a fellowship from the Australian government to carry out my Ph.D. project at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Prof. Chris Moran. In 2009 I went for 3 months to the UK to carry out part of my Ph.D. at the Imperial College London under the supervision of Prof. Michael Tristem. Today I am currently carrying out an independent postdoctoral research at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), Durham, NC, USA, and my mentor there is Prof. Allen Rodrigo.
My goal was to show these students that everything is possible. And interestingly some students were curious and wanted to know more about my experiences, and my past and current research. They also asked advices about career in general.
I guess they were also very surprised to see that someone like me was a scientist, as most of the time we think as a scientist someone much older, and usually a man. I am a woman of color and much younger than what usually people think a scientist should be.
I hope I made a difference in their lives and I hope some of these students can change their lives too.