The world needs science and science needs women. This is the statement that opens the platform for the L’Oreal-Unesco Awards for Women in Science. However, Gladys Gutiérrez-Bugallo prefers to say that “Humanity needs science and science needs everyone, women and men, rich and poor… Because science, to be true, must be rigorous and must also be comprehensive, which is not the case today. .
The conversation with this young Cuban, who holds a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, was inspired by her recent recognition by the 15th edition of the Young Talents Award for Women in Science, awarded by UNESCO and the French company L’Oréal. From Guadalupe I agreed to discuss her training, her aspirations, her contributions to our knowledge and, above all, the role of women in this sector of society.
“Science today is more elaborate for men than women; it is made by the rules of the game of the rich and not the poor. So, if someone tries to belittle any of the winners of this award for being exclusive to women (as some French colleagues testify), saying that the competition is not fair because men are not in it , I will tell them that women’s participation in science is not always fair and this is the way to balance that.
The scientist has been in this French territory in the Caribbean since 2018 to develop her PhD project in a joint trusteeship between the University of the Antilles / Institut Pasteur de Guadeloupe and the Pedro Curie Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK).
“When I finished my master’s thesis on vertical transmission (from mother mosquitoes to young mosquitoes) of dengue viruses in Cuban populations of Aedes aegypti, there were still many questions that we wanted to answer about this phenomenon and its relationship to its transmission. Human viruses and their impact on new outbreaks of the disease. However, we did not have a certain infrastructure and expertise in this matter in the IPK, and we needed a peer that had.
«So we find the Pasteur Institute of Guadeloupe and the head of its laboratory for studies on vector control, Dr. Anubis Vieja Roa, who had a doctorate at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and has extensive experience and results in medical entomology and Arbovirology. This is how cooperation was born.
Enrichment and international cooperation necessary in the field of science…
– Yes, especially for Cuba. Investing in science is very difficult, because results are not obtained in the short term, which is why I think international alliances are very important as we gain experience, in building human capital and capabilities at the lowest cost.
“Science is the basis of development. Everything that the flag is put on, it will turn out better. In the IPK, for example, the diagnoses, treatments, and knowledge we have about infectious diseases thanks to scientific development has been cultivated for many decades, promoted by Fidel.
But science is developing and growing steadily. Therefore, it is necessary to continue to promote, support, cultivate and invest in it, and for this it is necessary to take advantage of all opportunities for scientific improvement and cooperation that arise.”
– To what extent was the IPK, with its high scientific standing throughout the world, a vital place in your professional development?
– When I finished my degree in biochemistry at the University of Havana’s Faculty of Biology, I completed a period of social service at the National Secretariat of the University Students’ Union, at the request of the organization. Then they suggested IPK as an institution to work with. I had another idea of science on my mind, more towards biotechnology, but IPK always had tremendous social recognition and I agreed to go.
“Since my arrival, I have been associated with the field of medical entomology and vector control. There I belong to the Toxicology Laboratory run by Doctor of Science Juan Pesset and participated in research on insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and the study of Wolbachia as an alternative means of vector control.
“However, the focus of my research is the transmission of arboviruses (dengue, Zika, chikungunya) by Aedes aegypti, the most dangerous species in our context today. In this field, I have developed my MSc and PhD in progress.
“It is in the IPK that I also have my publications as the first author in high-impact international journals (including Nature), two related institutional outcomes that I have received, the award from the Cuban Academy of Sciences in 2019 and the last one.
“This institution is my other family. I don’t go to IPK just because it’s financial support, I go also because I enjoy it, I love what I do, I love my job, I love to investigate and discover what will have a business and social impact.”
Contribute to the education of others
This woman, who has always been fascinated with the investigation of biological phenomena, the causes of things that happen in nature, the processes within the cell… It might be hard to imagine her in another activity, because of the immense dedication and dedication to it. profession.
“But I love dancing and have a lot of fun doing it, and I also belong to the hiking and trekking group, Malnombre, which is led by the exceptional Cuban Miguel Alfonso Sandeles. My other hobby is spending time with my family, especially with my son Hugo,” he confirms.
It happens that it is not infrequent to “arrange” the performance of a person as a man or a woman, especially when it comes to him, because it is known that, in addition to the working day, they continue to bear on their shoulders the other, domestic, and in most cases without being able to share it .
“It is a very complex social construct, which is in the imagination of the people and is difficult to change with decrees or even laws. I think more and more women are turning this reality towards a scenario of collaboration, equality and gender bias, but this is something that needs a lot more to do.
“The scientific field is also very competitive, highly dedicated and focused. The working day does not have to last eight hours, I mean it can be extended, and at the same time several times the working hours in the laboratory are not enough and you should continue at home. Women are at a disadvantage precisely because they are the ones who stop and have to take a break in their careers, and then, if they are at home taking more responsibility for the daily routine and childcare, they are really disadvantaged.
“In this sense, I consider myself fortunate for the family I have, the people I have met in life, and the mentors I have, despite all the possibilities my country has given me to study and improve myself. I fight every day to accumulate so much knowledge and so much experience in what I do, in What I love.
“I would have the happiness of learning from the best, and as Marty said, ‘Instead, contribute to the education of others.’” In the future I would like to lead my own research group, investigate myself, learn what I know, and learn from what others also learn. In life: to grow and be useful!
“Social media evangelist. Student. Reader. Troublemaker. Typical introvert.”