Gabriela Farfan & Luis Valentin-Alvarado

WHOI scientists Gabriela Farfan and Luis Valentin-Alvarado are co-organizers for a public scientific symposium in Spanish and Portuguese scheduled for this weekend at WHOI.

Two young scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are organizing a scientific symposium aimed not just at scientists but at people in the community whose native languages are Spanish or Portuguese.

Both Gabriela Farfan and Luis Valentin-Alvarado were inspired by their own experience to reach out to people who may normally not have exposure to science in their native tongue.

“It’s a way for them to feel like they have access to WHOI and feel welcome,” said Ms. Farfan, an MIT-WHOI Joint Program student.

The event, “Oceanos: WHOI en Español e Português” is scheduled for Saturday, September 16, from 2 to 5 PM at WHOI's Quissett Campus, in the Clark Laboratory, Room 507.

Mr. Valentin-Alvarado, who works as a research assistant at WHOI, was born in a small town in Puerto Rico and did not learn English until 2013 when he came to the United States to do research. He first came to WHOI as a summer student.

“When I came from Puerto Rico, I had a barrier with language,” Mr. Valentin-Alvarado said. “After one year, 'Okay, I can do this.'”

He is also a first-generation college student, having earned a bachelor of science degree and a master's degree in science from the University of Puerto Rico.

Mr. Valentin-Alvarado worked in biomedical research and came to WHOI to apply his microbiology background to studying biogeochemical cyclesinvolving microbes in the ocean.

He began thinking about what it means to be Latino at WHOI and how he could be part of an outreach effort. Ms. Farfan had similar thoughts and when they met they began working together to organize the symposium.

“We both thought of the idea independently,” Ms. Farfan said.

Ms. Farfan grew up in a scientific family. Both her parents are scientists from Chile.

“I was lucky to be exposed to science,” Ms. Farfan said.

As a first-generation immigrant and Spanish speaker, however, she often felt like she stood out as a Latina growing up in the Midwest. And she noted that Latinos continue to be underrepresented in university positions.

“Since I was 7 years old, I knew I wanted to be a mineralogist,” Ms. Farfan said. “Successfully, I can say I am becoming one here at WHOI.”

Ms. Farfan described her project, studying the mineral makeup of coral skeletons and how they are impacted by climate change, as an interface between biology and mineralogy.

Both she and Mr. Valentin-Alvarado will be speaking at the symposium, along with nine other speakers, including graduate students and staff scientists at WHOI, Woods Hole Research Center and US Geological Survey. The keynote speakers are Paulo Brando and Marcia N. Macedo, both staff scientists at Woods Hole Research Center.

Topics range from coral reefs to earthquakes, from effects of climate change to copepods. Each talk will be about 10 minutes long and will be geared to the general audience either in Spanish or Portuguese.

Ms. Farfan suggested a young student interested in science could bring a grandmother or other family member who only speaks Spanish or Portuguese.

The program is not just for locals; the symposium will be broadcast on Facebook Live to reach out to other states and countries.

“We will make it global by putting it on Facebook Live for everybody who is interested in ocean science,” Ms. Farfan said. “Our families will be watching from Chile and Puerto Rico.”

A complete symposium schedule can be found at The broadcast symposium can be viewed at

Pode-se ver informação sobre esse simpósio em português en

Se puede ver los detalles de este simposio en español en

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.