Skip Global Navigation to Main Content

Harnessing the Ocean

A young Salvadoran woman studies (and teaches) oceanography

01 July 2011
Beatriz Recinos with rock samples (U.S. Embassy San Salvador)

Beatriz Recinos helped design and teach a geophysics course with oceanography lessons for students who are interested in math and science.

By Nadia S. Ahmed

Nadia S. Ahmed is managing editor of eJournal USA.

Beatriz Recinos doesn’t let obstacles get in the way of her education. An undergraduate at the University of El Salvador, Recinos became interested in oceanography when she visited the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego in the United States as a secondary school student while visiting family.

When Recinos started university, she knew she wanted to study oceanography, but it was not offered as a major. In fact, explains Recinos, “there’s no oceanography major in Central America. In Costa Rica, they have marine biology but it’s too far from my home.” Instead, Recinos decided to major in physics. While there are many women who study chemistry or biology at her university, there are not many women who study physics and there are no female physics professors. But Recinos thinks that as more women like her start careers in fields like physics, more young women will study those subjects.

Despite the constraints, Recinos was determined to study oceanography. In 2008, she got her chance when she studied for a year at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, with a Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) scholarship. “The classes were really interesting for me. It was the best experience for me and for my career,” she says. At Humboldt, Recinos and the other students went out to sea to take samples, and Recinos experienced oceanography firsthand. When she returned to El Salvador, Recinos knew that oceanography was the field for her.

But Recinos also wanted to give back and get other students interested in oceanography. As Recinos explains, “It’s a very cool major because [it is] related to earth science and global warming.” She wanted to introduce students to oceanography so that they might apply their knowledge to solve global challenges like climate change. “It [is] very positive to orient young students [to] fix those problems.”

Recinos and a fellow UGRAD alumna, Fatima Soriano, received a “Building a Better Future” Fulbright grant to create and teach two classes. One is a geophysics class for secondary school students that incorporates oceanography lessons into the syllabus. “They are applying what they’re learning in physics and in math,” she said.

Recinos helped teach the class until recently, when she became too busy with her internship at a local company applying oceanography to a renewable energy project. Recinos, however, still helps to teach the second class, an oceanography lab for first-year undergraduate students. “They can start [studying oceanography] from the beginning of their careers, even though there’s no oceanography major.”

After Recinos graduates in 2012, she hopes to pursue a doctoral degree or a master’s degree in physical oceanography or marine renewable energy with a Fulbright scholarship. “I would like to come back and work on projects about marine renewable energy here in El Salvador,” she says. Through science, Recinos hopes to help find energy solutions: “A person who knows math, science and technology can be more sensitive to people’s problems and try to fix things.”

Recinos has shown that she has the drive to apply her education to fix problems and to overcome challenges. For Recinos it is important to “not let anyone put you down. Just work hard and demonstrate that you can do it also.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)