Social Impact can encompass a wide range of ideas and projects that positively affect the communities we live in.
We are delighted to showcase various Fulbright alumni working with art, music, science,
and public health projects that are contributing to a better world.


A series by Leslie Kutsenkow (Fulbright Intern, Summer 2023)



(Joana Bordalo in Angra do Heroísmo, Açores, 2023)


Fulbright alumna and scientist, Joana Bordalo, is committed to improving educational opportunities and reducing inequalities in her role as the Co-founder and Program Lead of “Cientista Regressa à Escola”, or “Scientists Return to School”, which connects scientists to youth in their hometown through the Portuguese nonprofit Native Scientists. The vision of Native Scientists is «To bring together children and scientists so that all children in Portugal can say “I already met a scientist…” to dispel stereotypes and promote higher education and scientific literacy.». Joana has helped create a culture of activism that helps children develop interest at a young age to enable further impact as adults in science.


(Joana Bordalo in Praia da Vitória, Açores, 2022)


Joana’s passion for science in the education community is evident as she was recently recognized as one of the Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise by Euclid Network, a network of members and partners that create “positive change by connecting, enhancing, and celebrating social entrepreneurs…who pave the way for a socially inclusive green economy and society”. Joana is an honoree because of her work in coordinating nationwide science outreach and educational programs based on the concept of Circular Education and the Science Capital Teaching Approach.

Joana recently was a speaker at the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference. The PCST Network is an international academic and professional organization for science communication promoting new ideas, methods, and perspectives on the communication of science.


(Joana Bordalo at the PCST Conference, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in April 2023)


The topics included a presentation on “How science outreach with children can promote equity and diversity” and her visual paper on “Reaching underserved communities through circular education: a new science education and outreach programme” research work.


We interviewed Joana about how her Fulbright Scholar experience in the United States and her project that (has and) will continue to have a societal impact on youth and science:

  1. How do you plan to use your United States Fulbright Scholar experiences for your project Cientista Regressa à Escola at Native Scientists? When I was in the United States, I had the privilege of contributing to various educational programs in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, as part of the Communications and Outreach Department at the Institute for Genomic Biology (University of Illinois). This valuable experience provided me with profound insights into the effective management of scientific educational programs and honed my collaborative skills within a diverse team setting. Drawing upon the tools, knowledge, and both soft and hard skills acquired during my international experience in the United States, I have been able to make an impact back home as the lead of a nationwide educational program, called “Cientista Regressa à Escola”, which is currently entering its third edition. My experiences in the United States deeply impacted me both personally and professionally, which are, ultimately, translated into the work I develop.
  2. What challenges do you think that youth currently face in having access to or learning science today? The project I am leading aims to promote scientific literacy and reduce educational inequalities in access to science education by connecting children and scientists from the same hometown and from the same primary school (it translates to Scientists Return to School). Scientists from different scientific expertise and from different communities go back to their hometowns to develop 90-min science workshops with 4th-grade students. The project has been implemented nationwide in schools considered a priority and where access to science and science enrichment opportunities is more difficult or null – this includes schools in rural communities, in Ultraperipheral Regions (Azores and Madeira Islands), schools where the number of students in free school meals in high and/or schools where underachievement is high.
  3. If you could have one impact on the Portuguese people now or in the future, what would it be? That all children, irrespective of their background and community can reach their full potential, can aspire, and dream without barriers and thrive as responsible and active citizens in their future.


Joana has a Master of Science Communication, a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a music background. Joana’s experience is a testament to her passion for science and youth. She was a 2021 Fulbright/FLAD Scholar at the Department of Communication and Outreach of the Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, USA. Her humbleness is evident from her Fulbright Experience post which she states, “I have had a very strong feeling of gratitude…I feel deeply fulfilled and involved in the community (at the University of Illinois)..I didn’t think a small college town in the Midwest would have so much to give and take…I dare say that I have never been surrounded by so many like-minded people… And along with this nostalgia comes profound gratitude for the opportunity that was granted to me. I know that today I am a different person and I recognize the importance and richness of international relations for tolerance, communication and understanding”.

Joana is a former Same Migrant Community Programme Manager, at Native Scientists (UK), and Instructional Designer at MOOCs IST (University of Lisbon, PT). She has been a Erasmus student at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and Exchange student at University of the Azores, Portugal, a Freelance STEM tutor for 8 years, a graduate of the Global Clinton Initiative (Clinton Foundation, USA), and a former Volunteer Trainer at the Understanding Europe Project and volunteer at “Preservar a Serra de Carnaxide”.

Joana is a cellist player for over 18 years, has lived in three countries, and has traveled to over 25 countries. She currently lives in the Azores surrounded by her other passion, Nature.

Find out more about how Joana and Native Scientists are shaping the world by fostering a culture of innovation and inclusion. Congratulations Joana, you are truly an inspiration!


Thank you, Joana, and continue the great work!

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Since you are here, read “My Fulbright Experience” too, a series focused on the Fulbrighters’ testimonies about their Fulbright programs in the US and in Portugal!