In the laboratory with… Fernando J. López García, a tenured CSIC scientist and CIQUS researcher

In the laboratory with… is a place where we present the talent and excellence of Campus Vida researchers weekly by means of five questions.

Today we introduce you to Fernando José López García, belonging to the research group Mascareñas – López – Vázquez of CIQUS and Tenured CSIC Scientist.

Name and surname(s): Fernando José López García

Post and Research Group:  Tenured CSIC Scientist / Mascareñas – López – Vázquez

Institution: CIQUS (the Biological Chemistry and Molecular Materials Research Centre)

Fernando José López García (A Estrada, 1975) graduated in Chemistry at the University of Santiago de Compostela (1998) and was made a doctor in Organic Chemistry at the same university (2003). During his research career, Fernando López García has been on predoctoral stays lasting several months in the ETH in Zurich (Switzerland) and at Yale University (USA), as well as a 2-year postdoctoral stay in Groningen University (Low Countries). In 2005, he obtained a Ramón y Cajal contract and has been a Tenured CSIC scientist since 2008 in the Institute of General Organic Chemistry. He has recently become a member of CIQUS by means of a specific collaboration agreement between the CSIC (the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research) and the USC. In 2009, he received the Sigma-Aldrich Award for Young Researchers from the Spanish Royal Chemistry Society. In recent years, Dr. López has been the principal investigator of several national and regional projects, and is the author of various book chapters, patents, and 50 publications in the most prestigious journals in the Chemistry area.

1. Who is the most important scientist of the twentieth century for you? Why? It is extremely hard, if not impossible, to name only one scientist and refer to him/her as the most valuable scientist of the 20th century. I would probably be unfair to many others who made such important contributions. It is true that a group exists with 5 or 10 geniuses, where we find Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Alexander Fleming, James Watson and Francis Crick, or even Spanish names like Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who often appear in different articles as the most important scientists of the 20th century. Indeed, they have been essential leading figures in the most important scientific advances made in the past century. However, I would like to stress that science is constructed little by little with medium and large advances of everyone who has contributed with their capacity, talent and know-how to progress in science. That’s how I see it; a century is identified with scientific progress thanks to the efforts made by scientists, institutions and society in general. In line with this, I believe that the 20th century is a clear example of scientific revolution.

2. Which discovery changed the world? Why? I prefer to think that the discovery that changed the world is still to come. It would probably have to do with the possibility of obtaining energy cleanly and at low cost from the sun or any other inexhaustible and completely accessible source, like the sea or air.

But more in line with my field, I think that opening up new really efficient ways of easily accessing new drugs at a cost and in a period of time that are really reasonable would be the genuine revolution.

If we look at the past, it is clear that the discovery of the wheel, antibiotics, the incandescent bulb, pesticides, the Internet, the theory of relativity, among many others, have themselves been a real revolution that changed the world considerably, but I really hope that the most important one has to appear and that we can see it.

3. Why did you decide to be a researcher?  Simply out of curiosity and the need to be able to better understand the part of chemistry which most appealed to me which, during my degree studies, was generally synthetic organic chemistry. In my case, it was an interest which fedback and encouraged to being able to experience the satisfaction of discovering ”something” with my own hands and based on my own hypotheses.

4. What is your most important research line? What results do you expect to obtain and what impact may they have on society? My research lines centre on the development of new efficient synthetic catalytic methods that allow us to obtain structurally complex molecules with potential biological or medical activities in an efficacious and versatile manner.

In this field, I am particularly interested in developing catalytic and asymmetric methods that directly provide the molecules desired as pure optical isomers, which is currently a very important aspect in the development of new chiral drugs. It is a matter of developing basic science that offers no guarantee of immediate impact on society, but may well have in the medium and long term.

5. In what way do you think that the “Campus Vida” surroundings improve your research? Campus Vida is a marvellous opportunity. It facilitates an environment and a multidisciplinary network in which collaborations and more ambitious research works can be easily established. It also has excellent infrastructures.

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