Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Preparing for Univision: Bringing science education to Spanish speakers

By Ana Aceves

For 10 weeks this summer, I was living my career dream. I was scripting and producing science videos for Univision Noticias, a Spanish news network.

For the past 40 years, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has organized the Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship. It sends students to news sites around the country to produce science content, but this was the first year it sent students to Spanish news sites. I was one of two Spanish-language fellows in a group totaling 15. My experience at Univision was encouraging and reaffirming. It is thanks to this fellowship, and the education I've received at UC Berkeley, that I am more prepared for the next steps.

When I started as a freshman in fall 2010, I knew I wanted to major in astrophysics. I was inspired and curious about the universe around me. Yet I couldn't silence the voices that drew me to also major in media studies.

Time and again, I was asked what I was going to do with those majors – they seemed so different and unrelated. Little did I know that the combination of my majors would make me an ideal candidate for the AAAS fellowship. The rigor of my physics classes and the cross-disciplinary courses for media studies gave me a holistic approach to science and the media.

Like most students, I was challenged in my physics courses and learned to approach science in new-found ways. The struggle to complete my weekly problem sets gave me a deeper appreciation of all the effort required to understand science. While this summer I didn't use any quantum mechanics, I transferred the reasoning skills I acquired from that class to comprehend the complex systems described in scientific papers.

Similarly, my media studies courses helped me analyze the power and importance of words. I am aware that the way we communicate with others – whether it is through conversations, images, or printed word – influence the way we understand and interpret the world. Likewise, so do our cultural background, experiences, and lifestyles.

If my astrophysics background helped me understand complex systems, then my media studies background helped me practice interpreting and writing about the world around us.

At the conclusion of my fellowship, all my hard work paid off. I was asked to continue working for Univision by scripting more science videos. It is an honor and a great responsibility to provide Univision's audience science information in a language they can understand.

One of the things I realized this summer is that, unfortunately, there is not enough science content in Spanish to educate its speakers. I am resolved to change that. My next step is to continue my education, but down a science-communication track.

I want to be more prepared so I can better serve my community. I hope to one day host my own Spanish science show and encourage through example young Hispanic students to pursue a degree in science.