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Maria's Interview



Maria Berruezo Llacuna:
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Molekulare Medizin,
Genome Diversification & Integrity 

1. What is your field of research?

My background is in molecular biology, and over the course of my PhD I have been studying B cells, which are the cells in our immune system that produce antibodies, and how they modify their antibody genes in order to produce specialized responses against all the pathogens that we encounter.

2. Why are you participating in "Berlin is looking for the Sciencefluencer 2024"?

During the recent pandemic, I remember feeling very disturbed by the fake news running around social media. One day, while having dinner with friends and colleagues, one of them told me they knew that PCRs were invented for the purpose of making money during the pandemic. And that they were just a “fake” diagnosis technique. Like many other researchers, I perform PCRs almost daily in the lab - and I did that already before the pandemic - so hearing those statements felt incredibly shocking to me. I reached the conclusion that I needed to do something: if people do not understand what researchers do in the lab, statements like the ones that I heard can become truth for part of the society, and that can be really dangerous. 

3. What challenges do you face when you become a science influencer?

Time is really limited. I guess that’s a common challenge that a lot of people face. I have ideas that I would love to develop and see if they work with my audience, but the time I have to do that – considering I am at the last stages of my PhD – is really not enough. I hope that at some point I get the time I need to dedicate it to communicate science. 

4. What are your most important findings in your particular field of research?

Even if my research focuses on antibodies and B cells, the most important discoveries I made during my PhD are the people who are sharing this journey with me. I am surrounded by a group of people that is diverse in origin, language, opinions, knowledge, ideas… they helped me grow as a scientist and as a person, for which I am truly grateful.

5. What are your goals for the future?

My most immediate goal – and the only one I can see clearly right now – is finishing my PhD. After that I would like to continue enjoying science, be it in the form of lab work, teaching or communicating science. 

6. Do you have a funny anecdote from the life of a researcher you can share?

In the lab, you never know what type of challenges you are going to encounter. I remember one day I was working hand in hand with a new PhD student, we were getting ready to infect some cells with a specific virus. We had to enter a room in which you have to wear a lab coat that looks a bit like a hospital gown. You would think that infecting the cells was the challenge we faced. However, my colleague struggled to put on the lab coat correctly and he came inside the lab with a smile on his face but the lab coat only over his head, with his arms outside the sleeves.