Using Science for Service

Published in MIT News on Sept 25, 2014 by Julia Sklar


ESG Alum Sofia Essayan-Perez is inspired by those around her to teach in Nicaragua, conduct neuroscience research.

MIT senior Sofia Essayan-Perez, majoring in brain and cognitive sciences with a minor in applied international studies, has founded an educational nonprofit, conducted neuroscience research, and tutored MIT students. The common thread that binds these disparate interests: They all stem from hardships that those around her have faced.

Essayan-Perez was born in Boston, but spent her formative years moving among Chile, Nicaragua, the United States, and Canada, as her parents, both researchers in the social sciences, took on international projects. This diversity of experiences and environments has shaped Essayan-Perez’s nuanced view of the social disparities and scientific challenges she aims to tackle.

Using science for service

Sofia Essayan-Perez with a group of student videographers in Nicaragua.

When she was just 12, Essayan-Perez was struck by the lack of infrastructure supporting math and science in Nicaragua, where some of her relatives lived. “I observed that rural schools lacked science books and lab equipment,” she says. “That really got to me, as someone who was fascinated by science at an early age.”

Today, Essayan-Perez frequently says that she “uses science for service.” She began by leading human biology workshops for girls in Nicaraguan villages; since arriving at MIT, she has worked with rural Nicaraguan high schools to strengthen math and science teaching, supported by fellowships from MIT’s Public Service Center. She has gone on to found Instrui, a nonprofit that offers open-source lesson plans and student-made educational videos in science and math to high schools in impoverished and developing countries. The lesson plans currently reach 3,500 students....

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