From Despair to Discovery

By Plummer, Janelle | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

From Despair to Discovery


Plummer, Janelle, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Dr. Raul Cuero was one of 10 children born in abject poverty in Buenaventura, Colombia, to parents who could not read and write. Lacking books, he indulged his curiosity, by investigating the creatures around him.

"I played with roaches, lizards and plants," recalls Cuero, a microbiologist at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. "It was wonderful. They were nay real medium to enter into the wonderful world of discovery of the unknown. Everybody needs to have a medium in order to have passion, then become an inventor."

Today, Cuero has 11 inventions to his credit. His most recent finding is a breakthrough discovery of an agent that naturally blocks ultraviolet (UV) radiation to prevent skin cancer.

An academic scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation started Cuero on his path to becoming an accomplished inventor. In his third year studying biology at Universidad del Valle in Colombia, Cuero impressed a visiting professor, Percy Lilly, with his independent research on plant-growth patterns in a tropical environment. Lilly secured a scholarship for Cuero to attend Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, where he taught.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Cuero went on to earn a master's from The Ohio State University and a doctorate from the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom. He has been a researcher at historically Black Prairie View for 18 years.

Cuero says all of his investigations stem from experiences in his life, his attempt to solve health or environmental problems.

His upbringing in Buenaventura during the 1950s, when more than 40 percent of the children in his town died from diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, continues to serve as a source of inspiration.

The patent-pending UV blocker follows several Cuero discoveries, including a process to clean up oil spills easier. The UV study began with his research about biogenesis on Mars. …

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