Assistant Education Director, Laboratory for the Research on the Structure of Matter, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Country of birth: Spain
Educational background: PhD Materials Science and Engineering, Lehigh University; MS Theoretical Physics, University Complutense of Madrid, Spain
Who or what inspired you to work in science/engineering?
My earliest memories in a laboratory date back to elementary school. My grandfather, Marcial, was a chemist in an industrial laboratory (Zeltia Group) and we used to visit the lab together. I was intrigued by the sophisticated glassware and complicated equipment. At school, I was really into physics and math.
Primary responsibilities of your current job
I design programs targeted at increasing participation in the sciences, with an emphasis on underserved populations. In the PREM program at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, I co-advise undergraduate students in their research activities and help tailor their education/research curriculum. As a scientist, I manufacture tools to manipulate live cells, and investigate new materials properties, such as the movement in smart materials irradiated by light, which we call photoactuation. I have recently organized the first photoactuation conference (NOMS) under SPIE.
Biggest obstacle or challenge that you have faced in your career
When I first became an Assistant Professor in Barcelona, Spain, my entire professional trajectory had taken place in the U.S. I was asked to lead the assembly of a multidisciplinary team across Europe. As team director, I realized the administration of budgets and scientific policies vary greatly for different countries and institutions within a country. This was particularly challenging when trying to unify the different criteria to the requirements set by funding agencies. I saw these difficulties simply as a sign of diversity. With this perspective, the task became an enriching experience. I got to see how science and scientific policies are handled across Europe and worked out ways for all of us to work together.