Thursday, June 10, 2004

NKU battles science void

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

Angie Gutierrez, a student at Loveland Middle School, holds onto a spinning gyroscope that caused the pad she was sitting on to rotate during a Latino/Multicultural Science Camp at Northern Kentucky University. The demonstration illustrates rotational dynamics, said Ricardo Rademacher, a physics lecturer at NKU.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Miriam Kannan has taught biology at Northern Kentucky University for 25 years, but rarely to fellow Latinos.

The native of Ecuador said that of the 122 Latinos who will attend NKU in the fall, she expects only two or three to major in a branch of science.

"Four Latinos in my 25 years here have majored or gone into a science-related field," said Kannan. "In Latin America, there's just no tradition in science, and the schools don't push it."

To stir up some interest in the field among a growing Greater Cincinnati Latino population, Kannan and Leo Calderon, coordinator of NKU's Latino student affairs, have organized the first Latino/Multicultural Science Camp for local high school students.

The free camp is every day this week and is being taught by the NKU science department faculty to 12 Latino high school juniors and seniors.

The students are learning about astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology and genetics. They've specifically learned how to gather DNA evidence, use a microscope and mix chemical compounds.

Melissa Guerrero, 17, will be a senior at Princeton High School in the fall. She came from Peru two years ago and plans to attend the University of Cincinnati in 2005 to study medicine.

"In Peru we have the coast, mountains and jungle, so we have a lot of opportunities to learn about science," said Guerrero. "That's why people don't go to the doctor in Peru. They know all the plants and take care of themselves."

But Kannan said the people don't realize the remedies in plants are science. "They just see them as plants that they need to survive in a Third World country," she said.

Veronica Zapata came here from Ecuador in 1998. She graduated from NKU with a degree in environmental science and is a volunteer at the camp. She said the perception among many students in Ecuador is that science is not a high-paying profession.

"If you come to the States, you're expected to make money," said Zapata. "And they think the money here is more in business and not in science."


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