The ‘Researcher Spotlight’ series shines a light on the work and varied career journeys of the researchers who publish with us. We want researchers to be able to share their own personal stories and help others draw inspiration and extract learnings that can serve as a guide for the next steps in their own careers. These interviews provide insights and advice from researchers in different career stages and fields, from those who are just getting started in research to more experienced researchers.
Dr Andrés López-Cortés, biologist and professor at Equator Technological University talks about his career goals and highlights so far, the value he sees in research communication and shares his advice for researchers just starting in the field of precision oncology and artificial intelligence.
A young researcher who just starts out in the field of precision oncology and artificial intelligence should be aware of the fact that his/her scientific career may have good moments as well as not so good experiences. One of the largest problems that young scientists face, especially in developing countries, is the greater difficulty in obtaining academic scholarships, grants for their research or to publish in high-impact journals. My advice to mitigate these barriers is to be in charge of the research guidelines that they really feel passionate about, being persistent until reaching their goals, getting involved in research groups with proactive supervisors and in work environments where the main objectives are mental health, building relationships with experienced scientists in their fields by means of seminars, generating scientific contents in social media, being ethical and humble. Finally, all this knowledge acquired over the years needs to be led into the fulfillment of social objectives for the greater good, such as the improvement of the quality of life of cancer patients through the drug discovery or the development of more effective oncological therapies.
One of the goals of my scientific career is to be able to implement pharmacogenomics and precision oncology both in Ecuador and in Latin America. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to create a group of researchers with various academic backgrounds who can get involved in international networks, and based on that work, to make it possible to characterize the genome of the Latin American populations as well as to implement clinical pharmacogenomics guidelines in hospitals and health centers. Currently, my research group is a member of the "Latin American Society of Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine" and "The Latin American Network for the Implementation and Validation of Clinical Pharmacogenomics Guidelines", where the cooperation with experts from different countries has been a rewarding experience.
Another personal goal has been the fact that I encourage my students to get involved in research throughout their careers. In order to achieve this goal, in my Human Genetics and Molecular Biology class I share our scientific articles with my students so they can realize how important it is to learn to think critically and the fact that it is always necessary to find out why various diseases take place in order to seek better treatments.
One of the highlights of my career was meeting the female scientist that I mostly admire, Nuria Lopez-Bigas. She is the group leader of the Barcelona Biomedical Genomics Lab in the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, and together with her research team, develops the highest quality research in cancer genomics worldwide. This experience taught me that working with a multidisciplinary team and having a friendly work environment are essential to expand my knowledge horizons. I am now one of the coordinators in "The Latin American Network for the Implementation and Validation of Clinical Pharmacogenomics Guidelines", where multidisciplinary scientists seek to implement precision medicine focused on cancer and cardiovascular diseases throughout our region.
Another highlight of my career so far has been the strengthening of a working group made up of many high-level scientists from the Ecuadorian Academy in order to do research and mitigate the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and its disease COVID-19. Some of the most prominent research areas are the following: epidemiology, vaccines, artificial intelligence and drug repurposing.
Finally, a special highlight in my scientific career was the fact that I, together with other scientists from the Universidad UTE, made the first genomic analysis of an indigenous patient suffering an extremely strange illness, called congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA). This piece of research did not only help to better understand the causes of the disease, but also to prove that the support to genomic research of strange diseases is a must in the decision-making process in public health.
Scientific publication is an essential tool for scientists to be able to visualize their discoveries in a better way for the public to understand. The most effective tools are social media channels such as Twitter, participating in seminars/congresses to create cooperation networks with multidisciplinary scientists, the active participation in social and political events for a correct decision-making process based on scientific evidence; and finally, the creation of communication strategies with professionals in this field to spread research by means of interviews on radio, TV and the press.
The support of publishers is critical to achieve a greater impact in visualising scientific research. On one hand, they play an important role in proofreading and creating high quality content. On the other hand, the strategies of scientific publication generated from specialized scientific articles make it possible for the discoveries to reach the public, enriching knowledge in societies and combating pseudoscience.
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Researcher Spotlight: "Staying a lifelong learner"
Researcher Spotlight: “Why researchers should treat scientific journals like museums for scientific discovery”
Andrés López-Cortés is a Biologist with a MSc in Biomedicine and a PhD in Bioinformatics. Currently, he is a researcher and a professor at Universidad UTE in Ecuador, and a coordinator at "The Latin American Network for the Implementation and Validation of Clinical Pharmacogenomics Guidelines". His research fields are omics sciences, precision oncology, pharmacogenomics, human genetics, and COVID-19.