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“Great women” researchers on the “big screen” at The European Researchers’ Night in Madrid 2020

December 3, 2020

Noche Europea de los Investigadores de MadridLast Friday, November 27, the Residencia de Estudiantes de Madrid once again hosted the activity that the IMDEA Institutes organize within The European Researchers’ Night in Madrid. As in the ten previous editions, in which we have also participated, the Fundación para el Conocimiento madrimasd has coordinated all the activities prepared in Madrid.

Build great bridges; discover the first known growth factor in the nervous system; nuclear fission; or the DNA polymerase of the phi 29 virus that allows to amplify the DNA in a simple, fast and reliable way; be a pioneer in the field of surface tension; co-support the first spread spectrum technique; or explain how eukaryotic cells arose, of all this and of many more the protagonists of “Great women” researchers on the “big screen” were capable.

If the researchers from the IMDEA Institutes who participated in the activity agreed on one thing, it was to show great admiration for all the scientists chosen. As they spoke of the magnitude of their scientific contributions, they recalled the immense strength they demonstrated, their ability to fight and work against almost everything and almost everyone.

“Great women” researchers on the “big screen” began with Emily Roebling, the protagonist chosen by IMDEA Materials pre-doctoral researcher Eugenia Nieto. Although she was not recognized as such until a century later, today she is known as the person who lead the construction project of the Brooklyn Bridge. Monica Echeverry, Eugenia’s colleague at IMDEA Materials, where she is a postdoctoral researcher, preferred to focus on Rita Levi-Montalcini, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1986, and member of the team that discovered the first known growth factor in the nervous system.

Marta Liras, senior researcher at IMDEA Energy, continued with the passionate story of Agnes Pockels, a woman who, between the 19th and 20th centuries, without going through university classrooms, became a pioneer in the field of surface tension whose research was published in Nature. We shall also point out what IMDEA Nanoscience postdoctoral researchers Sofía Oliveira and Natalia Martín told about Lise Meitner. Lise was a member of the team that discovered nuclear fission, a discovery that made her colleagues earn a Nobel Prize in Physics, but not her. Although she was also recognized for that: Einstein spoke of her as “our Marie Curie.”

Changing completely of scientific discipline and professional profile, Arturo Azcorra, director of IMDEA Networks surprised us all by talking about Hedy Lamarr, whom film lovers will know for having been a great Hollywood star, but of which few will know that together with the composer George Antheil, she patented the first spread spectrum technique, whose objective was to allow the remote control of torpedoes. With her patent, she intended to help the United States to stop the advance of the Axis Alliance during World War II. Continuing with cinema (and literature), the IMDEA Software predoctoral researcher, Silvia Sebastián, chose for her presentation the fictional heroine of the Millennium saga. As a sign that there is no single scientific pattern that deserves our recognition, Silvia explained that Lisbeth Salander uses her immense knowledge in Cybersecurity to solve crimes. Her partner at IMDEA Software, postdoctoral researcher Elena Gutiérrez, spoke of another woman, this time a fresh and blood character, who also knows a lot about software, Margaret Hamilton, who contributed to the development of the Apollo Program software.

Abraham Esteve and Ana Ramírez de Molina, both researchers from the IMDEA Institutes, closed the tribute to great scientists by outlining the figures of Lynn Margulis and Margarita Salas. Abraham Esteve, main researcher of the Bioe group (University of AlcaláIMDEA Agua), chose Lynn Margulis, a biologist who explained how eukaryotic cells arise and who defended the importance of cooperating as opposed to competing as an evolutionary mechanism, being controversial among the most orthodox Darwinists. On the other hand, Ana Ramírez de Molina, deputy director of IMDEA Food, spoke of her admired Margarita Salas, an introducer in Spain, together with her husband, of Molecular Biology, whose research has served as the basis for the development of today’s “sadly” known PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction or Polymerase Chain Reaction).

“Great women” researchers on the “big screen” showed that there were, are and will be many female researchers whose scientific contributions make them a box-office success. Lise, Rita, Agnes, Emily, Hedy, Margaret, Lisbeth, Lynn or Margarita are some of them, but the list is much longer.

In the following link you can see the video of the activity:

residencia de estudiantes comunidad de madrid Instituto Imdea fundación para el conocimiento madrid

La Noche Europea de los Investigadores e Investigadoras de Madrid es un proyecto de divulgación científica, promovido por la Consejería de Ciencia, Universidades e Innovación y coordinado por la Fundación madri+d. Este proyecto está financiado por la Unión Europea dentro del Programa Horizonte 2020 de investigación e innovación, bajo el acuerdo de subvención número 953.820.