By Angela Musallam

UC DAVIS (CBS13) — As Puerto Rico continues to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, a group of UC Davis professors is stepping up to help graduate students.

The professors have partnered with the University of Puerto Rico to help bring students to Davis so that they can complete their studies. One student is set to arrive next month — and one just got here.

“It’s like hope, like light, I can finish this!”

A renewed sense of hope for Adlín Rodríguez, a Ph.D. student from Puerto Rico, whose studies were put on hold after Hurricane Maria.

“It was difficult because we didn’t have any communication, phones, water, light,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez would wake up before sunrise to avoid traffic on her way to San Juan — that’s where she studies at the University of Puerto Rico.

Rodríguez says she often had to drive to other towns just to get a phone signal to get a hold of her family and colleagues.

“It was very different, very bad,” she said, tearing up.

Emotional about the aftermath in Puerto Rico, Rodríguez didn’t know if she could finish her thesis for her Ph.D. in Physiology; then, her mentor at the university told her about a group of professors at UC Davis wanting to help.

“I can focus, I can finish my work, and this is very important for me and my family,” Rodríguez said.

“I thought it was very important to step up to the plate and help,” said Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Gerardo Mackenzie.

MacKenzie volunteered to help Rodríguez complete her thesis. She’ll have full access to a lab and to the internet, which is vital to her research.

Rodríguez says she couldn’t be more thankful for an opportunity that will shape the rest of her career.

“I have to finish, I have dedicated a lot of time for this, this is my goal, my dream,” Rodríguez said.

For now, Rodríguez is staying with a UC Davis professor until she completes her thesis in March. She plans to return to Puerto Rico and eventually teach at the university there.

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