Three Guatemalans to interview Nobel Prize winners in Science

The Unidos por la Ciencia event will bring together eighty undergraduate and graduate students from Latin America and the Caribbean with Nobel Prize laureates to discuss how science and scientists can positively impact society in the most effective way possible.

The activity will address topics including the responsibilities of scientists, strategies to promote science, the power of collaboration, and the broad societal implications of these topics in order to inspire the next generation of scientists to work together on using of science to address major challenges, such as climate change, inequalities, political instability, in addition to the devastating impact of covid-19.

Young Guatemalans participated in the convocation and were elected. All three of them have had a great interest in science since they were little: they liked to observe and asked why everything, but at the same time they helped them to cultivate that interest at home and their teachers fostered their critical thinking and motivated them to follow a scientific career.

We interviewed them and asked why they think most young people are scared or frightened by hard science. Here is an excerpt of what they revealed to us.

“Studying science is not easy, but it can be a lot of fun. It’s like putting a puzzle together: you experiment and when you do everything right, you hit the mark and win the game ”. Yasmín Quintana Morales. Free Press Photo: Courtesy.

Yasmin Quintana Morales

Biologist Master in Interdisciplinary Ecology and PhD candidate in Ecology and Conservation Biology

Quintana will share with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the first scientists to study how telomeres protect chromosomes, and has applied her work to develop human health issues.

To the question, he answers that “what we do not know or understand scares us and the myth has been created that studying science is something that few can do. Girls in particular have been led to believe that they have more verbal skills and that numerical skills are boys’ skills, which is totally false, ”she says. And he mentions that the traditional teaching system is not friendly to develop critical thinking, or the love of science, and this generates a lot of frustration.

At the same time, it indicates that parents fear that their children pursue a scientific career because they do not see a promising future in these careers, so they discourage their children from following this path. We need more visibility of the potential of scientists, show role models for both girls and boys, and get society to value science as one of its most important tools for development.

Guatemalans to be interviewed for Nobel Prize winners in science
“As in sports, you have to have a strategy to learn and spend some time practicing”, Aouda Nicté Sánchez González. Free Press Photo: Courtesy.

Aouda Nicté Sánchez González

Undergraduate student in Molecular Biotechnology. University of the Valley of Guatemala.

Sánchez comments that she will participate in the conversation with Emanuelle Charpentier, who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020 for the development of the CRISPR method for genetic editing, a technique that has opened a world of possibilities in genetic engineering, due to its specificity.

About the fear of these subjects, he says that everything originates in the way we talk about these subjects, both students and educators, this creates an aura of fear around the subjects, so somehow, from generation to generation, it “We inherit.” However, you are aware that there is a real difficulty in the study of mathematics, physics, or chemistry. And he explains that there is a good reason why the knowledge we have now is the product of centuries of thought and experimentation. And he says that nobody is stupid for not being able to solve a problem at first sight, we must get rid of that idea.

Aouda is interested in specializing in plant biotechnology and the study of soils, which are applications within agriculture of what I have studied in the bachelor’s degree.

Guatemalans to be interviewed for Nobel Prize winners in science
“If you take an ordinary person who is willing to spend a large amount of time studying, working and thinking, then he will become a scientist”, Luis Alfredo Ixquiac Méndez. Free Press Photo: Courtesy.

Luis Alfredo Ixquiac Mendez

Physics undergraduate student, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

In general, when they explain the knowledge of the exact sciences to us, they do not present it to us in the proper way. This has the consequence that one does not understand it and does not make sense of it. And not understanding something causes a terrifying feeling. One cannot even get to know what scientific knowledge is about and what it is for.

“It is very different for you to think that you do not understand something due to lack of intelligence, to think that the reason responsible for not being able to take that step is because you simply need to learn some simple previous ideas.” Knowledge in itself is not difficult, we all have the intelligence to understand it. The problem in the difficulty to learn it does not come from scientific knowledge itself, but from the way it is presented to us.

One of the main things a student must learn is to be able to hunt himself in search of those missing ideas that he needs in order to learn things. Achieving that ability, for me is part of “knowing how to learn.”

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Three Guatemalans to interview Nobel Prize winners in Science