Dr. Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar was born in San Juan, The Capital of Puerto Rico. Since childhood, she was interested in knowing the why of things. That curiosity led her to take a Bachelor's Degree in Biology and Psychology at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She always wondered why people behaved in different ways, what was the reason. That thought led her to focus her studies in the area of Neuroscience. During her baccalaureate, she carried out undergraduate research at the Medical School of the Medical Sciences Campus in the area of neuropharmacology where she published her first scientific articles as co-author. She began her Ph.D. at Northeastern University in Boston and finished it at Madison University. During her journey in graduate school, she began studying, which ended to be her area of research: the neurobiology of addiction. She completed her post-doctoral studies at the Scripts Research Institute. After finishing her post-doctoral studies, she received a call from her alma mater and since then she has been serving as a research professor for 22 years at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus where she currently carries out her research on cocaine addiction. Dr. Maldonado is a very active person who always looks for the best for her alma mater and its students. These qualities have led her to occupy various administrative positions within the University, being the most recent Dean of Graduate Studies and Research
Although she did her doctoral and post-doctoral studies outside of Puerto Rico, Dr. Maldonado-Vlaar mentions that leaving her comfort zone is essential to enrich our knowledge both professionally and personally. Returning to Puerto Rico was a thoughtful and hard decision, but the commitment to the institution was key in the decision to accept the offer. As she describes, being a woman in science is hard but not impossible and she has managed astonishingly to keep her research-active while assuming administrative responsibilities. Dr. Maldonado describes the impact that Hurricane Maria had on the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus and how the research laboratories were severely affected. She also expresses how the scientific community got up and how months later it was possible to start the scientific activity again…. "Si se puede".
For me, this episode of Caminos en Ciencia based on the story of the great colleague Dr. Maldonado represents a story of a woman who with the different responsibilities she has assumed she has managed to excel within the university scientific community. As a doctoral student at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, I attest her commitment to and for the University and its students. I have had the pleasure of taking courses with her and coincide with her different administrative roles and without a doubt, it is an example to follow. Thanks, Dr. Carmen Maldonado!