This month Matrix interviewed Laverne Martinez, Fellowship Coordinator and Sponsored Research Associate at the Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB). She told us about what she loves most about her job, and about an important part of her life outside of work – the world of Carnival.
Matrix: So Laverne, what goes on in your neck of the Harvard woods?
Laverne: I manage the portfolios of all the postdocs working in HSCRB, from their time of entry straight through to when they leave. When they’re here, I help find them fellowships that they are eligible to apply for based on whether they are visiting from another country or a US citizen. There are always fellowships that cater to specific individuals, and my job is to help each person find at least one that they can apply for. So I meet with the postdocs and help them through the entire process. I also manage faculty member Jack Strominger’s portfolio.
Matrix: You sound like a very important person to a lot of people! What’s your favorite part of what you do here?
Laverne: Interacting with every single person. I’m a true people person, so it’s exciting to meet so many different people. Everyone has their own personality and comes from a different background and culture. So far at HSCRB, I’ve met so many nice people. I find out what their interests are outside of HSCRB, too, to get a sense of what they’re like as individuals, because I feel like it’s a part of my role to help triage them to resources here. I’m not from the US originally, so, although English is my only language, I know what it’s like to come to another country for college and not have family here.
Matrix: Where are you from originally?
Laverne: I’m from Trinidad and Tobago – it’s one country, two islands. I came here when I was 17 for college. Trinidad is very multicultural, and we have a lot of people from India, Africa, China, Venezuela, Syria, and other countries. This has also influenced the food, but we add our own unique twists. We are also said to have the most holidays in the world, because we try to respect every religion. Everyone celebrates the holidays and customs of other folks’ religions. And we always find a reason to celebrate! They say that folks from Trinidad are the happiest people in the world.
A huge part of our culture that’s very important to me is Carnival. I fly home every year to take part in the festivities, and also in the Toronto event called Caribana, and in the Boston and Cambridge celebrations.
Matrix: And what exactly is Carnival?
Laverne: It’s two weeks of celebration leading up to two big days, Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Our country has a Catholic tradition, so these two days take place directly prior to Ash Wednesday in Trinidad. The US customs have branched off a little from the ones in Trinidad – they’re formed by folks from the Caribbean who are missing Carnival back home.
Matrix: Everyone should check out Carnival, it sounds (and looks!) amazing! I’m so glad we go to learn more about your culture and heritage, Laverne. Thank you for sharing!