Panama Breeds Talent

By Juan Carlos Martinez

You may think Panama is mostly banking and commerce but in any country an important but often neglected component is its people.  Panama has some very illustrious representatives conducting groundbreaking research in the United States, world famous athletes, artists among other personalities who shine.
Among one Panama´s current distinguished personalities we find Mr. Luis Rabelo, electromechanical engineer who is currently national project manager for NASA.  Mr. Rabelo was born in Chiriquí and since very small he showed great aptitude for math even winning the Math Olympics when he was in the 6th grade.  Mr. Rabelo is also a tenured professor in the University of Central Florida and currently holds six university degrees, starting with a B.S. Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from the Technological University in Panama.

Alongside Mr. Rabelo, Panama also has a distinguished geneticist, Mr. Ibis Sánchez-Serrano who graduated from Medical School in the University of Panama due to scholarships and financial assistance from many sources including USAID.  His fields are biotechnology and medical reform.  His paper on the Core Model which establishes that development is achieved through an exchange between the resources on hand rather than based on the state of technology as was proposed by Mr. Robert Snow, winner of Nobel Prize in Economics in 1987, has been widely acclaimed, garnering him the support of personalities such as Craig Venter, creator of human genome project.  Mr. Sanchez-Serrano has certainly soared high from his modest beginnings in Veraguas, Panama.

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Both these gentlemen are currently living and working in the US because although Panama did provide them with opportunities for education and scholarships these professions had more opportunities in more developed countries. 
Although Panama is one of the countries in Latin America with the least “talent exodus” it still suffers from loosing its brightest minds to more possibilities and higher salaries in more developed countries such as the US.  To counteract this Panama through SENACYT (National Secretary´s Office for Science and Technology) is offering scholarships at the level of Bachelor`s, Masters, and Ph.D`s in order to qualify professionals in diverse disciplines centered in the areas of Science, Technology in renowned universities around the world with the simple condition that they return to Panama and work here for double the time of study.
Some of the specific areas where Panama has identified that it has a need for talent are Transport and Logistics, Applied Physics, Microbiology, Seismic Engineering, among many others.  The estimates indicate that Panama will need approximately 25,000 engineers in the coming 10 years.  The companies recently setting up in Panama´s newly opened special economic areas have also indicated that they will need engineers, project managers, chemical engineers and researchers.

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