It’s a cliché to say it takes a village to educate a scientist. But Yoana Guzman Salgado and Ana Milena Reyes Ramos are proof that such a global village exists, and that it was able to swing into action within days of Hurricane Maria’s punishing blow to Puerto Rico last fall.
Salgado had just begun to write her master’s thesis in microbiology and Ramos was in the midst of her doctoral dissertation in bioengineering at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Mayagüez when Maria struck on 16 September 2017. It was 40 days before students and faculty were allowed to return to the campus, which also houses a medical school. But the extensive damage from the water, wind, and loss of power meant that things were still a long way from getting back to normal.
Anticipating how long the recovery would take, evolution geneticist Marta Wayne of the University of Florida in Gainesville immediately contacted her program manager at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and won approval for a supplemental grant to help up to five students in need. On 28 September 2017, Wayne posted a Facebook notice inviting students on the island to apply.