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Puerto Rican Student Leader Advocates for Scientific Outreach

Gian Carlos Molina

Camila Vazquez

Student leaders like Gian Carlos Molina, have joined the National Puerto Rican Student Coalition after their recent acceptance to different Higher Education institutions in the United States. Gian Carlos is a recruit from NPRSC-DMV, since 2019, in which he advocates for scientific outreach and other initiatives. This is what he had to say after speaking with us:

"Being raised by a family that never traveled outside Puerto Rico, my aspirations and perception of the world was dictated by the boundaries of our small archipelago. My first opportunity to travel outside Puerto Rico came when I was 18; until then, leaving the island for entertainment, let alone to pursue studies in the United States, felt beyond reach. However, scientific research has nurtured my innate curiosity, embraced an analytical and critical mindset, and allowed me to expand my boundaries by proudly representing our island nationally and internationally.

"Intrigued by understanding our nervous system, I have conducted research since 2015 in diverse topics such as psychopharmacology of cocaine addiction, neuromodulation of spinal cord circuits and interactions between neurons and glial cells in an animal model of multiple sclerosis. Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, USA. Before leaving the island in 2018, I completed a BS in Cellular/Molecular Biology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Rio Piedras and a Professional Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the UPR-Mayaguez.

"Beyond neuroscience, I am also passionate about mentoring, science communication, strategic management, and higher education. I was invited to the NPRSC-DMV Chapter in 2019 to continue connecting boricuas in the diaspora and providing a support network to all of us who have departed alone to pursue our goals and aspirations in the mainland. More recently, I was honored to be a panelist in the Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans Washington, DC Diaspora Summit, where I shared my experience moving to the US to pursue graduate studies and our current initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion in higher education, especially Hispanics/Latinos.

"In addition, I have found very enriching sharing my knowledge through scientific outreach and leading such initiatives. Motivated by my previous experiences at home, I joined Project Bridge at Johns Hopkins, a graduate student-led organization focused on connecting scientists to the general Baltimore community. During the past year, I have been Co-Chair of the Baltimore Brain Fest committee (www.brainfest.org), which encloses our initiatives for the Brain Awareness Week. We organized interactive lesson plans for an elementary after-school program at multiple schools in Baltimore City. The closing event on a Saturday is an all-day festival where we educate children and their parents about neuroscience through arts and crafts, scientific demonstrations, games, and a brain-themed escape room. In addition to recruiting Hopkins trainees/faculty and community partners, this year we selected local high schools students to lead their own scientific demonstrations to promote science as a potential career and serve as a role model to local elementary school children that attend. Sadly, our programming scheduled for March 2020 had to be postponed due to COVID-19. During the summer, I will transition to Co-President of Project Bridge where I will spearhead our diverse outreach initiatives such as Science at the Market, Baltimore Brain Fest, Girl’s Coding Club, MD DNA Day, Science Gong show, communication workshops, among others. For more information: http://www.projbridge.org/johns-hopkins.html

"Science is not merely learning facts as it seemed to be during our grade school years. Science is discovery, creation of knowledge, problem solving, innovation and critical thinking. Therefore, I am committed to creating advocates for science and inspire underrepresented communities in science during my career. Furthermore, I plan to leverage the non-technical skills honed during my doctoral studies to pursue a career in strategic management consulting and my interest in higher education administration to create value and innovative solutions for our present and future generations. Want to chat? Feel free to contact me via email (gian12.mol@gmail.com) or LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/gianmolina/).”

Gian Carlos Molina is an inspiring young leader that strives for Science discovery. His experiences as a Puerto Rican student that left the island to continue pursuing professional development, is an example of the many students that go through similar experiences. These students are in need of networking and outreach experiences that connect them with different Puerto Rican students in the diaspora. Therefore, the NPRSC looks forward to continuing to recruit prospective student leaders.