«Curiosity guides me. It is the magic of working in science»

He summarizes his research area 'how to understand life'. There it is nothing. In their case, those four words refer to deciphering how the most basic form of life works: the molecules that are part of cells. Of all cells. A process that requires many years of research, and a path in which, as it has progressed, it has placed Eva Nogales, (Colmenar Viejo, Madrid, 1965) at the level of references. For other scientists, but also for the generations that come after us.

What does understanding life mean specifically?

In knowing biological processes at the molecular level. I have always liked to work on studies that are essential for all cells, the primordial processes that occur in all of them, regardless of the organism they belong to. For example, we study genetic transcription, which is nothing more than the process of reading the DNA genome, one gene after another and at the moment when it is necessary. How does that happen so that all the information that encodes the cellular components and that makes the cells alive and different from each other? That's one of the things we study.

Are these investigations useful for various scientific areas, then?

Of course, these components are in all living beings. Although I tend to work more with human cell components, I have also collaborated with scientists from other areas, such as botanists.

Does the research process also involve defining new procedures and protocols?

It's the way to move forward. When you are doing this cutting-edge work, with every step you take, you see how far it can take you. I believe that what has characterized the work in my laboratory is that we have always pushed a little more than what was thought possible and That is why we have managed, for example with cryomicroscopy, to visualize for the first time things that others have not seen, because it seemed impossible and because something special had to be done. There are many blows, but you have to try.

In a few days it will be the Day of Women and Girls in Science. Is gender equality important in scientific research?

Science is a team effort, and diversity, different personalities and styles is enriching for building knowledge. Just as it is necessary to have people from different fields, it is also necessary to have different personal experiences, who face problems in different ways. Having the same person multiplied by five is not the same as having five different ones. All contributions are necessary and half of the population of potential successful scientists cannot be lost. It would be a shame. I really believe that it is very important that there are leading women in all areas of science, so that young women see them and tell themselves that if others do it, they can do it too.

In your case, three teachers from your high school were your first inspirations, I understand.

TRUE. In the formative years, your teachers are an essential reference. In society there are many points where this push, this encouraging function can be done.

Do they create the first curiosity?

Yes. And what guides me is curiosity and it has grown over time, because the more you know, the more you realize what you still don't know and the more and more questions arise and the more you realize that there are still things left to do. do. That's the magic of working in science.

Being recognized with the Shaw Prize places him as “nobelable.”

I don't know if I want to mention it, lest it be bad luck. Let's see, seriously, the truth is that there are certain prizes that, when they are given to you, you are more likely to win the next one. And Shaw is one of them. Obviously, the important thing is to be in that position, but it is also true that there are many Nobel Prize winners and they only give one a year.

In any case, awards like this are also a guarantee of continuity, of moving forward, of incorporating more people into the team and of continuing to teach.

Yes. You say to yourself, 'well look, they recognize my work, I'm going to continue with this effort.' But, also and truly, what I liked the most was when we obtained the results for which they gave us the award. It was super exciting and fantastic. And no one can take that away from me, whether they had given me the award or not. Because, it is the fact and the pride you feel for having done the work that deserves to be given the award, even more than the award itself.


Street and laboratory with his name

Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at the University of Berkeley, California, she is a world leader in her scientific field: electron cryomicroscopy. She has a street in her hometown of Colmenar Viejo and a laboratory at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, at the same university, is named after her. Since November, her resume has included the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences. She is equivalent in prestige to the Nobel Prize. Which she doesn't want to talk about, but the rest of us will be attentive.