Have you met... Ana Barbas?

Ana loves to help people not only through her research but also outside the lab.

Ana Barbas has a 5-year degree in applied chemistry, with a specialization in Biotechnology. After graduation, she worked in a biotech startup named Biotecnol. Next, she decided to embrace a PhD on fundamental science, but applied science is what really motivates her. Currently, she works at iBET leading the satellite lab of Bayer.

Ana Barbas at iBET (Oeiras, Portugal).

You worked in academia and industry, probably you have mentored young scientists and also dealt with lots of co-workers in those places. Which are the qualities that you believe they should have?
That’s a good question! I really appreciate open and sincere people, both for my students and for my peers! I believe these qualities are two of the most important since we can learn a lot from each other and also help one another. Of course, having a good mood is also important when someone is going to integrate a team!

In your opinion, what will be the major breakthrough in science in the next 20 years that will improve our lives and have an impact on everyone?
Hum… this is more of a hope that I have… I think the investment that is being done in personalized medicine, mainly in cancer therapeutics since this disease is highly heterogeneous, will be the major breakthrough. We have to consider each patient a case that will respond to therapy in a very unique way!
If you weren’t a researcher in life sciences, what would you be doing instead? Or what was your dream job as a kid?
When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a ballerina, as almost all the girls, or an astronaut because I just love the space. Nowadays, not so much as an alternative career, but I would really like to be a volunteer at the United Nations, for instance. I feel I have so much to give, to help people or take care of children. I really want to feel I can help on improving those people’s lives.

When you have a bad day at the lab, what is your strategy to boost your mood?
I need music and the sea. Just a 5 km walking by the sea and listening to the music and everything gets better!

As you already worked in academia and in the industry, can you tell us the major differences between those workplaces?
Funny question [laughing]! In the industry, we have to be more focused and assertive! Of course, academia is great too, but we have different objectives, although there must be creative people in both places. When we work in the industry, we have to get clear answers and timelines are very strict! However, in my opinion, there should be an overlap between both. For instance, there are groups that have been researching for a long time and if they were focused, probably they might have achieved more by applying that knowledge elsewhere. On the other hand, some people working in the industry are so focused that innovation can pass through them without being noticed. There must be an equilibrium!

You won the L’Oréal Portugal Award for Women in Science 2011. Can you tell us a bit about the project that was recognized?
Actually, we are still exploring that project! Besides working for Bayer, I also dedicate some of my time to research and to my students. The aim of this work is to study the role of the Notch ligands, especially delta-like 1 (since it is poorly described by now), in breast cancer. In fact, there is an aberrant activity of the Notch receptors ligands in cancer cells. Our goal is to find new therapeutic antibodies to reestablish the normal activity of these ligands and receptors since the Notch signaling pathway exists in every single cell and has a crucial role in cell communication. Once restored, this could lead to tumor reduction, angiogenesis blockage and so on…

Oh My Science! keeps interviewing amazing scientists, with really interesting careers, as it is the case of Ana Barbas. She works in the industry maintaining a foot in academia, as well. The common thing: both types of her research are applied! Did you like the article? 😉 Stay tuned for more interviews! Comment and share! 😊