Interview for El Tiempo

[English Translation - Article excerpt]


by Data Unit - El Tiempo, October 12, 2017

There are Colombians who are not leaving permanently, but with the intention of bettering themselves to return and contribute solutions to the serious problems in the country.

This is the case of Rubén Palacio, a 27-year-old from Cali, biologist and second-year doctoral student in the Environment at Duke University, in the United States, where he is awarded a scholarship by the Fulbright Colombia program.

In his opinion, although Colombia has a good undergraduate level, “there are better opportunities to become a researcher abroad” and, this being the focus of doctoral programs, studying them abroad is a good opportunity.

Living in the United States allows him to interact with other researchers and people interested in collaborating in his projects, since Rubén does not aspire to stay in the north: he focuses his efforts on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Tropical Andes and thereby wants to transcend borders and impact to the region.

Currently, the doctoral student heads Fundacion Ecotonos, through which he manages the development of a project for the return of bird species that disappeared from the San Antonio cloud forest, near Cali, his hometown. This proposal, which addresses aspects of governance and reforestation, was awarded as Best Student Oral Presentation at the last International Congress for Conservation Biology held this year in Cartagena.

Even though Rubén’s wish is to return to Colombia, he understands the position of those who prefer not to do so: “if the government does not incentivize people to feel good about working in the country again, those escaped brains have every right to stay abroad ”and adds that “in many occasions the government has not even supported their studies abroad, so they do not owe anything to anyone”.