Forward Research Summit pushes to accelerate scientific activity
The Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust hosted the Forward Research Symposium in-person for the first time in two years to “accelerate scientific activity in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean,” organizers said.
The Forward Research Symposium was held at the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel with an attendance of more than 200 students and professionals interested in the areas of research, science, technology, economic development, and entrepreneurship.
With a busy agenda, more than 25 speakers and panelists shared their scientific knowledge and perspectives on technological innovation.
Andreica Maldonado, director of the Research Grant program, said summits and symposia have been held since 2016 “to showcase the great talent and work being done by researchers on the island, since currently, there is no other local mechanism that offers funding and is peer-reviewed.”
Since its founding, the program has received hundreds of applications, which have been evaluated by subject matter experts from more than 16 countries and more than 150 research institutions, she said.
“So far, we have awarded 120 grants for a total of $13.8 million and a return of investment of more than $37 million. Our mission is to continue advancing science on the island, and we at the Trust are committed to continue supporting this community,” Maldonado said.
Meanwhile, Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo referred to the event as “a celebration of innovation that allows the people responsible of making the island a world-class innovation center to connect.”
“We believe that this is a powerful platform to empower the local scientific and technological community, and furthermore, advance their potential for collaboration with international scientists, researchers, and innovators,” Crespo said.
The first part of the agenda featured a variety of topics from speakers, ranging from the most recent discoveries about the Human Papilloma Virus and its relationship with cervical cancer, to the presentation of a tool for the analysis of DNA repair capacity in clinical samples from cancer patients with minimally invasive technology called “CometChip.”
Suranganie Dharmawardhane, a grantee that has been funded by the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust for the past seven years, presented her project for the design and characterization therapies directed at metastasis, the cause of 90% of cancer deaths.
Alok Arun, visiting scientist at MIT, gave a talk on innovations for sustainable agriculture in Puerto Rico, in particular the multiple uses of seaweed. Tugrul Giray followed with a presentation about a molecular tool that identifies subspecies and populations of honeybees from different geographical locations. Jens Lautenbach presented a project that was developed at the Arecibo Observatory, which can provide the scientific community with data on the vertical distribution of aerosols over time in the Caribbean, including African dust, which influences hurricane formation, climate, and health.