In Season 2 – Episode 9 of Caminos en Ciencia, Dr. Giovanna Guerrero-Medina takes us into her life and her pathway through science that led her to leadership positions to help increase diversity, equity and inclusion in science. Dr. Guerrero-Medina is a Puerto Rican scientist born and raised in San Juan (Río Piedras), Puerto Rico. Since her early years, science was a topic of discussion in her house, as her father was a professor of Pharmacology and a scientist, but it wasn’t until her high-school years that she became interested in biology. Being a student of the High School of the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras Campus (UPR-RP) gave her the opportunity to attend an undergraduate biology course. There, she saw the enthusiasm of professors, researchers and students, for biology research and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biology which she completed at UPR-RP. For grad school, she left her life-long hometown and went to California to pursue and complete graduate studies in Cell and Molecular Biology with a focus in Neurobiology at Berkley University. While working towards her PhD, she expressed what most of us have felt during our passage through grad school, impostor syndrome, and most of all, “what will I do after graduate school?” After listening to this conversation in the podcast and seeing how successful Dr. Guerrero-Medina has been, gives me a sense of calm and reassures that we are not alone when, at times, we doubt our future and sense of belonging.
Her research as a graduate student had a strong electrophysiology component which she worked while listening to podcasts related to politics, interestingly, when science topics were in discussion. She developed an interest in science and politics, but how could she combine both? After completing a short post-doctoral training, she went to Washington, DC as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellows at the National Academies of Science, which led to a position at the National Institute of Health where she worked closely with federal agencies and government. Before entering Yale University, Dr. Guerrero-Medina worked in the Van Andel Institue at Michigan where she focused in developing scientific programs. At the same time, she was a volunteer for Ciencia Puerto Rico; a non-profit organization that reunites and gives visibility to any person interested in sciences and Puerto Rico. As of today, she is the director of Ciencia Puerto Rico, the Executive Director of the Yale Ciencia Academy and is part of the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Yale. As Dr. Guerrero-Medina says, “science is not linear”, and she has been able to use science as an instrument to benefit society through her science career. Because of her experience with Ciencia Puerto Rico, which takes the expertise of scientists for the benefit of future generations, connects Puerto Rican scientists around the world and opens the space for mentoring relationships, she developed in collaboration with Yale University, the Yale Ciencia Academy, a program where graduate students nationwide have the opportunity to discuss important topics for personal and professional development with successful scientists. Her work at Ciencia Puerto Rico has had an impact on students and scientists at every stage of their career. She has helped bring scientists together, improve the way science is taught at Puerto Rico with “Ciencia al Servicio” (Science at the Service) and is giving young girls interested in STEM a platform for science outreach through the initiative “Semillas de Triunfo” (Seed of Success). In this last initiative, middle and high-school girls receive workshops in STEM to fuel their curiosity and become ambassadors for science in their communities. As a woman, scientist, and Puerto Rican, Dr. Guerrero-Medina embodies how science can serve the community and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. Her path through science is an example of how a combined interest and passion can serve for students, scientist, faculty, but most of all: society.