“She started doing research on bacteria from the Dead Sea in order to know if they could survive in Mars”
That girl’s life has changed!
Not only her life, but the life of all her family. Her mother is always looking after her and her younger sister has already started doing research too. At school, Valeria participates much more and even her community has awarded her with the “Heroínas Toledo” Prize. She is really standing out! She was invited to a conference to give a presentation about her project. Everybody there was a scientist and she was the only child. Imagine how proud her parents are.
And has she shared at school what she has learned at the workshops?
All girls do and the majority of teachers feel very comfortable with that as they learn more.
Who is Javier Navarro?
He is a Peruvian teacher at the University of Texas. He had the idea of creating MaCTec around 2012 because he got bored, as his students only wanted to acquire theoretical knowledge and did not question anything. He wanted them to make him think! One day he asked himself, “What if I work with children?” So, he came here and started working with girls. It was a progressive work. At the beginning, he knocked on doors for his methodology to be accepted. He is now very empathic and explains things not with scientific terms but with simple words so everybody can understand; and he makes things look very interesting.
In one workshop, children worked with cow, rat and chicken brains.
It was a pretty interesting workshop. Girls came out happy. It was conducted by a scientist that studies brains; she brought brains from different animals. We could see the differences among them like the size; they even touched them. Who touches brains? (laughs)… Girls mix with experienced scientists.
How do you afford it?
With donations. We have won many prizes. The most important one was that of UNESCO for the education of girls and women in science (2017), which allows us to develop a new project: the mobile laboratory. Our goal is to educate girls in scientific topics. We are planning to extend our methodology to other cities.
It will be a travel laboratory.
Exactly. That will allow us to obtain more information about our country’s biodiversity. We are currently asking for donations to complete the project, as scientific material is expensive and we need reagents to be well preserved with adequate temperature…
“Our goal is to educate girls in scientific topics. We are planning to extend our methodology to other cities”
What do you like the most about being part of this?
Definitely the people I work with. We all are doing this because we like working with girls and we know that our work will contribute to the country. We are very committed… When I go to workshops, I end up completely tired; the girls make so many questions that I start to question a lot of things… creativity appears.
Have you set a term? Until when will you be part of MaCTec?
No, but I do believe that this has to be extended to other cities. There is a lot to do! I do not think that I’ll ever end my work in MaCTec. I’ll continue contributing to it for the rest of my life.
Your goal is to prepare the first generation of Peruvian scientists.
Exactly. We help girls that want to pursue a science degree to do research projects and we get them in touch with universities and scientists of our network, so they can continue their careers and become ―at the same time― the next scientists of MaCTec.
That means this is only the beginning.
Yes! It has been seven hard years, but we will soon have results as there are many girls that have begun attending the university and follow science degrees.