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Dr. Eloy Rodriguez

"Science is a big puzzle.  Putting it together is the ability to say, I have discovered something nobody has discovered before.  There are many questions still to be answered, many things yet to be discovered.  We can all be scientists!"

-Eloy Rodriguez, Ph.D


Birthdate : January 7,1947
Career : Plant Biochemist & Toxicologist
Position : James A. Perkins professor of Environmental Studies, Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York
E-mail : er30@cornell.edu

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Major Scientific Interest
Dr. Rodriguez travels throughout the world looking for natural chemicals produced by plants and animals. He tries to discover how these chemicals work, why they are made by the organism, and how we can apply them, particularly in medicines and pesticides.
Early School History
Dr. Rodriguez was born and raised in South Texas. His family was poor and his father dropped out of school in first grade, but his parents were interested in his education. He recalls that his mother attended every parent meeting during his first four years of school.
He sadly remembers that he had few minority teachers while he was growing up and was punished for speaking Spanish in the Texas classroom. He recalls that in junior high, many Spanish-speaking students were told they could not go on to college. He was a good student but really did not become interested in science until the eleventh grade, when he had a strong role model in a science teacher named Mr. Fernando. As an undergraduate, he became interested in reptiles and wanted for a while to be a reptile taxonomist.
Student at the University of Texas
Although he graduated in the top 5% of his high school class, his counselor suggested that he should think about going to a technical school instead of a university. He disregarded the advice and went to the University of Texas at Austin. He still did not see many Mexican Americans as teachers. Once again, he remembers that in his undergraduate and graduate career, he did not once encounter a scientist from a minority group.
At the University of Texas, Dr. Rodriguez became excited about science by actually doing scientific research. (He published or co-published three papers as an undergraduate.) By the time he finished his Ph.D., he had published 14 articles (he has over 140 now). Even after he received his degree, as a Mexican American, he found it hard to get an academic position. Finally, in 1979, just as he was about to leave the country, the University of California offered him a position, and he remained there until 1994.  He is presently the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
Research at University of California, Cornell University and Work with the Minority Community
Dr. Rodriguez created a new discipline of science called zoopharmacognosy, the study of the behavior of animals that medicate themselves and of the chemistry of medicinal plants. He and Richard Wrangham of Harvard University discovered that wild animals use plants as medicine. He and his research team have isolated the chemicals from many native plants that are useful as medicines. In December 1992, Dr. Rodriguez was the first American to be awarded the Martin de la Cruz Award from the Mexican government for research on the chemistry of plants used by Aztecs for medicine.
Considered one of the most brilliant scientists in the country, Dr. Rodriguez is not only an outstanding researcher and university teacher but also an individual with a strong sense of commitment to the minority community. He started a successful series of programs to increase the involvement of minority children in math and science, to provide them with excellent minority role models, and to involve them in the fun and rewards of scientific research. He has organized programs for minority students in colleges and graduate schools to support them in becoming researchers in biology and other science fields. In 1990 he began the Kids Investigating and Discovering Science (K.I.D.S.) program, which brings minority students from Kindergarten through eighth grades into the research laboratories at UCI to discover the excitement that comes from exploring the natural and physical world. He continues his research and work with minority students at Cornell University.
Resources for Teachers and Students
To learn more about his work visit the following sites:  Dr. Rodriguez's Home Page, C.H.I.M.P.P. Home pageNature's Pharmacy -- Field GuidesFLORIN Medicinal Plants Brief.

Other Recommended Links
Environmental Education - Link: EE-Link Introduction

If you would like to correspond directly with Dr. Rodriguez, please e-mail him at er30@cornell.edu.