In the laboratory with… Sulay Tovar, a Parga Pondal researcher

In the laboratory with… is an area in which we introduce with five questions the talent and excellence of Campus Vida researchers on a weekly basis.

Name and surname(s): Sulay Tovar

Post / Research Group: The Isidro Parga Pondal Contract Programme

Institution: University of Santiago de Compostela (USC)

This Parga Pondal researcher has more than 40 scientific publications over 1,300 citations. She trained as a doctor in USC’s department of Physiology, and has continued her work with stays in the Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne (Cologne, Germany), the Genome Research Institute, Obesity Research Center University of Cincinnati (USA), University of Cordoba (Cordoba, Spain). Nowadays, she leads the Diabesity Group within the Molecular Metabolism and Functional Obesidomics Group of CIMUS (the Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases Research Centre).

1. Who is the most important scientist of the twentieth century for you? Why?  Choosing just one name from a list with such important names like Einstein, Fleming and his antibiotics, Watson and Crick, who discovered DNA with Rosalind Franklin (who no-one remembers), etc., is neither simple nor fair. Nonetheless, one of the best references for women dedicated to science could be Marie Curie, who stood out for her scientific and social achievements. She was awarded the Nobel Prize twice and was the first woman to give a class at a university during a particularly difficult time for female researchers.

2. Which discovery changed the world? Why?  Many, many discoveries have changed the world: the wheel, printing, the telephone, the Internet, and a long etc. Within my discipline, and as far as my work is concerned, the discovery of insulin has been fundamental. Thanks to insulin, the survival and quality of life of diabetic patients have increased, and it has orientated the research guidelines being generated in this field more specifically.

3. Why did you decide to be a researcher?  It sounds like a cliché, but “curiosity” is to blame for me choosing a science career and research later. As a young child, I enjoyed mixing all types of liquids I found at home to see what happened (which made my mother despair). Later at high school, I discovered that many questions I wanted an answer for were related with biology, my favourite school subject. I felt very happy whenever we were taken to the laboratory….. Because of all this, choosing my career was a simple matter: I wanted to be a biologist. The “curiosity” I mentioned earlier then led me to do my doctoral thesis in the biomedicine  field, a paradise of questions to find answers for while working on science and, in this way, I could contribute a little to finding solutions to some problems in the biomedicine field.

4. What is your most important research line? What results do you expect to obtain and what impact may they have on society? Since the beginning of my science career I have been actively working on Regulation of Intake and Energetic Metabolism at both the central and peripheral levels. After more than 5 years of postdoctoral experience in Cologne (Germany), I broadened my knowledge with new working tools and techniques, such as genetically modified mice or hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps, which are fundamental for studying resistance to insulin and diabetes, to name but a few. When I came to CIMUS, I formed the “Diabesity” group, whose main objective is to search for possible therapeutic targets which contribute to alleviate and cure illnesses related to obesity and the development of diabetes as a result of obesity. We are optimistic and hope to provide at least some results to help improve these very common diseases in today’s society.

5. In what way do you think that the “Campus Vida” surroundings improve your research? The interaction and collaboration between the research groups of various disciplines is one of the virtues of Campus Vida. The classic research model of working alone in a laboratory is not feasible in a field like biomedicine, which brings together many disciplines that are continuously and frenetically advancing. The interaction between the research groups within Campus Vida (and evidently with other groups around the world) provides new points of view and ideas, which also facilitates collaborations within the same institution.

Another basic aspect of Campus Vida to highlight is its work in promoting scientific vocation among young students, and its wide-ranging training offer with doctoral, masters and degree courses.

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