Behavioural neuroscience major, Alejandro Rovira, became Northeastern University’s first student to work on a routes co-op in a research lab beyond campus. He secured this co-op through a university program called Research Opportunities for Undergraduates: Training in Environmental Health Sciences, or ROUTES. He carried out his research on establishing relations between environment and how it affects pregnant women and their infants back in his native home, Puerto Rico. Rovira has worked on several projects involving two closely-linked Northeastern research centers focused on Puerto Rico: the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats, or PROTECT Center; and the Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development, or CRECE.
“It catalysed my interest in going back to Puerto Rico as a medical professional and helping out the people on the ground,” said Rovira, a fourth-year student in the Honours Program. “My wish has always been to go back. Now it’s even more so.” Rovira realised how vast the field of environmental health was while he was pursuing this co-op. He believes that one doesn’t understand the importance of the impact of environment on human health. He spent his time tossing around the island- sometimes to measure air quality, other times to perform biopsies on placentas. He also worked closely with paediatricians and watched them perform cognitive testing on infants. He mainly chose his deeds in accordance with his effort to study the effects of environment.
Rovira got involved with local residents as well and carried out surveys related to environmental health. The goal, Rovira explained, was to develop an online education module for educating these health professionals. He studied the population trend and attributed the decline to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria which caused people to leave for better prospects elsewhere. These factors, he said, have inspired him even further to return.
“It was both a humbling experience and a learning experience,” Rovira said of his co-op. “I recognise that I was afforded so much from my time on the island that I want to give back. But at the same time, it made me aware that I made the right decision to come to Puerto Rico and prepare myself to go back to Puerto Rico and give them the best that I can.”