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Women in Science (VII): An interview with biologist Elisa Pérez Badas

Women in Science (VII): An interview with biologist Elisa Pérez Badas

Marianne Lopez-Greene – Hackwire.

Series Interviews Women in Science (Seventh)

Illustrations by Antonio Jose Perez Tome.

The Simpsons It was the third source of information for generations born around the year 2000, along with emerging social networks and friendly hookah gatherings. In this American animated series, real characters or events were ironic at the same time as coded predictions of the coming years with better, but less talkative, probability released than the crystal ball of our beloved Lolo Rico.

The 265th episode featured “Simpson Safari” a parody of Jane Goodall She is obsessed with diamonds from her entourage of domesticated monkeys. This British zoologist and activist just turned 87 years old on April 3, 2021, after his lifetime dedicated to preserving chimpanzees and their habitats. His contributions to anthropology were highly revealing and contrary to current theory, as he discovered that monkeys were able to create tools and socialize at much higher levels than those previously viewed by the established paradigm. With the permission of our guest, I want to dedicate this interview in honor of all the girls (including me) who have been vegetarians, Hebeans, and Buddhists for at least a week thanks to Lisa Simpson.

Elisa Perez Bads He did his doctoral thesis work at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. He is currently involved in evolutionary biology and investigating the relationship between oxidative stress and aging at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In addition, there is a project with the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant established by the European Commission to support research in the ERA (European Research Area) space.

What role does air pollution play in oxidative stress and aging?

– Of course, an important role. At the cellular level, oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals (cytotoxic agents) and antioxidants (which counteract the said free radicals) is lost, so that an excess of free radicals damages the cellular machinery, for example, in DNA. There is ample scientific evidence that pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, etc. They are the cause of oxidative stress. It is believed that this damage could interfere with the development of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, or even different types of cancers resulting from inhaling these pollutants.

The direct relationship between oxidative stress and aging is still not entirely clear, and my current project specifically attempts to elucidate this relationship experimentally. However, there are studies under preparation in my research group on seabirds in which the presence of heavy metals such as mercury is associated with shortened telomeres (signs of aging in DNA). Mercury is one of the typical metals that we find in the air as a result of industrial activity. In the future, we will definitely see more information regarding the relationship between oxidative stress and aging, heavy metals and other pollutants, so we hope this serves as additional evidence to educate governments about the need to develop more environmentally friendly policies. The environment.

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– Used as a model bird of Australian origin called “Zebra Finches” which is colloquially known as Mandarin Diamond. What’s the most curious thing you’ve learned from this bird?

One of the things that I find most fascinating is that they are birds with a complex social system, and are able to establish stable social bonds with their peers. For example, mandarin diamonds can reproduce in their natural environment throughout the year, but they do so opportunistically due to the scarcity of resources in the arid regions of Australia where they are found. That is, they reproduce when conditions are favorable. But the funny thing is, not all couples breed at the same time. Of course, concurrent couples maintain stable social bonds over time, and they can utilize these bonds to find more food. It may seem to us that only mammals are capable of this level of social complexity, but in reality birds can teach us a lot about social relationships and their effects on reproduction, survival, and other vital strategies. It’s a great.

“Female” by Antonio Jose Perez Tomei

– I’ve stayed at Doñana Biological Station, this national park is probably not as well known as it should be outside of Andalusia. For this reason, I would like you to explain to us the importance of its ecosystem.

– Doñana National Park is one of the most important wetlands on the planet, and within our lands it is the largest national park. It is home to many species of resident vertebrates, although it is perhaps best known for its scattered populations of the Iberian lynx, which is an endangered species. Another aspect that is not well known but equally important is that it serves as a corridor and / or breeding area for many migratory birds. I’ve been lucky enough to visit and it’s great to see how different ecosystems like swamps, dunes, Mediterranean forests, riverside forests, and pine forests, each with its own flora and fauna, meet in the same place, giving rise to a huge park with biodiversity Exceptional.

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– For about a year she collaborates monthly with IVoox’s science department. What are the keys to having good media qualities?

Well, I consider I still have a lot to learn, but careful practice is a good helper when it comes to publishing: The key is knowing which formulas work best according to the type of audience. I have never turned on the radio before, and after the initial tension, which is always difficult to get rid of, I try to transmit normally, clear, direct and simple. Ultimately, what is involved is that the general public feel an interest in science, so that they learn complex concepts that they might not otherwise be able to access. Well if one is able to use humor the better, but it doesn’t always show up! I definitely don’t see how to take advantage of the comedic vision, but you never know, or if not, you just have to look at the group Big Fan Science.

“Macho”, by Antonio Jose Perez Tome

Your first post-doctoral position was in Leeds in the north of England, although you had previously conducted an internship on British soil specifically at the University of Exeter. Do you think Brexit could affect the destination of Erasmus which is among my favorites for studying Spanish?

-Yes exactly. Due to the new administrative difficulties, a large part of the student body may not choose British soil as their first destination. As a strange fact, for example, I ran into some difficulties when I moved to Holland to get my cat. Other difficulties I hear from foreigners who are still there for example include real nightmares of lost parcels, moving boxes, etc. All this makes the panorama somewhat unpleasant for prospective students, who will then choose destinations with fewer difficulties. Regarding the destination of some funds, at the moment the Erasmus grant is kept, but we do not know what will happen in the future with this and others, like Marie Skłodowska-Curie that I am enjoying now. Certainly in the scientific sphere, the Brexit idea has not been well received by my colleagues, whether or not they are of British descent.

In the end, I will ask you the question that some of our readers are asking after seeing the high and varied mobility of the scientists interviewed. What is the relationship between travel and research?

Correlation is so high, yeah, I’m afraid your readers will smell it. I have moved on a lot, sometimes in short periods, sometimes in longer stays. The truth is that, unlike the always-present difficulties, I have no regrets, but rather the opposite. I have met great researchers and researchers, and being in different institutions made it easier for me to reach the job I have today. I also like to dive into other cultures and learn the typical customs of other countries, I am passionate about languages ​​(I always say that if I am not a researcher, I would love to be a translator). Moreover, establishing an international collaborative network is very important in the research world, just like mobility today. For example, gaining access to various postdoctoral scholarships or contracts in Spain requires spending time in your career abroad. Another reason why we researchers travel a lot: attending international conferences. This is very necessary to keep up with developments in your field of research and also, it is of great value in the curriculum. This high mobility demand does not make it easy to reach more advanced careers in the research profession, especially for many researchers, because for example, it is difficult to reconcile all of these trips with motherhood. Perhaps now that we are accustomed in times of pandemic to the online world, there is a future of science with greater equal opportunity for all.

More articles in the series Women in Science

-Miriam Gallardo Díaz, biology student: “Women are less likely to access important workplaces than men are”

Women in Science (2): Marta Valverde Figuera, Environmental Sciences Graduate

Women in Science (III): An interview with Lydia Al-Mazan, a Physics graduate

Women in Science (IV): An interview with Sara Ratkowitz, a pharmaceutical chemist

Women in Science (V): An interview with biologist Lorena Saelices Gómez

Women in Science (VI): An interview with biologist Rossola García Navas

You can read more articles and interviews with Marian Lopez Green Hackwire in the special section dedicated to her by LA MARINA PLAZA.