Key Figure in Restoration of Puerto Rico’s Scientific Community to Speak at ASM Conference
Washington, DC – September 12, 2018 – Dr. Juan S. Ramirez Lugo, a plenary speaker at ASM’s 2018 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), has mobilized a funding program to preserve and restore the Puerto Rican scientific community after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
At the 2018 ABRCMS meeting, held November 14 – 17 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dr. Ramirez Lugo will speak about the inspiring successes of this internationally coordinated effort as well as the continuing challenges faced by the Puerto Rican scientific community as it works to re-establish itself.
“2017 was a year filled with many challenges for everyone in the Caribbean region. Human-made and natural disasters presented seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the progress of science in our region, but through the great determination and collective efforts of the scientific community we continue to strive forward," said Dr. Ramirez Lugo.
Last year, special travel funding for ABRCMS attendees was made available to students who contacted ASM in need of assistance. ABRCMS made an additional $15,000 available outside of the travel award program to support students attending from Puerto Rico. Abstract deadlines were also extended and arrangements were made for students who didn’t have internet access, electricity and the resources needed to prepare for their presentations.
“The events of this past year have revealed the critical role that AAAS-Caribbean and scientific societies, in general, have in responding to our changing world. Collective endeavors and responses to natural disasters have also accentuated the importance of collaboration," said Dr. Ramirez Lugo.
Scientific facilities, such as laboratory spaces, and years’ worth of samples and data were destroyed by Maria. Under the direction of Dr. Ramirez Lugo, President of the Caribbean Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and close collaboration with the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (PRSTRT) and Ciencia Puerto Rico, the Hurricane Relief Grants Program (HRGP) was created Through the HRGP, financial support was provided to eligible students, researchers and K-12 teachers in the form of small need-based grants to support science and engineering researchers and students affected by Hurricanes Irma and María in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Through this program, funds were available for temporary relocation to continue research as well as the restoration of facilities.
ASM donated $10,000 to the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust to support the students and scientific community impacted by hurricane Maria. The funds were utilized as small grants of $1,000 - $2,000 primarily to assist Microbiologists on the island, and educators or students with exceptional needs.
Critical to the success of this project were the over 450 offers of laboratory space and facilities—as well as personal accommodations—from universities, hospitals, and private companies, as well as a handful of individuals. This outreach was not only from the Puerto Rican scientific diaspora but also fellow scientists all over the United States as well as France, Italy, and Hong Kong.
The ABRCMS was founded by American Society for Microbiology to encourage minority, first-generation, veteran, and disabled students to pursue higher education in STEM. Today, ABRCMS is one of the largest professional conferences for underrepresented students.
ABRCMS is managed by the American Society for Microbiology and funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.