Laura Escudero Monreal (born Badalona, 1991) graduated in Biotechnology from the UVic-UCC, and is currently a researcher at the Vall d’Hebron Oncology Institute (VHIO)
She knew from a very young age that one of her great ambitions was to save lives, and although she first saw herself working in a hospital, she now contributes by doing research in the laboratory.
From an Erasmus in Leicester to a doctorate in Cardiff, this researcher has adapted to each new situation and discovered new ways of working. Laura Escudero is pleased that research is becoming important in the media because she believes that "the more engaged society is, the more engaged the government will be." For this reason, as well as her work as a researcher, Escudero also participates in the dissemination of knowledge as an ambassador for the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR).
When did you decide to study Biotechnology?
When four hundredths of a point in the university entrance examination grade turned my world upside down. I'd always said that I was going to be a doctor because I wanted to save lives. That was something I’d assumed internally, and I'd never questioned it. But I had to think again that summer, and when they called me in September to tell me that I'd made the cut for Medicine, I said no. I'd discovered that I wanted to be a medical researcher, so I decided to study Biotechnology at the UVic-UCC, and then I did a doctorate in Cancer Genetics at the University of Cardiff.
Some advice for students - even when you think you know what you want to do, consider all the options available before you decide. Maybe you'll be surprised!
"Mobility is highly rated in the world of research, especially when applying for scholarships"
Why did you decide to go abroad to continue your studies?
It was a personal challenge and I really wanted to do it. Ever since I decided that I wanted to be a researcher, I told myself that I'd go abroad to do my doctorate. I considered it as an adventure that would open doors to me in the future. Mobility is highly rated in the world of research, especially when applying for scholarships.
In Wales, you talked about having to continue your training as a researcher to have your own research group in Barcelona. Now you're here, what new challenges are you considering?
It's still my dream. I still have a long way to go, so I'm gradually working towards it and focusing on the present. Now I'm working as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr Seoane's group at the VHIO in Barcelona, in a project funded by the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC). One of the objectives is the development of diagnostic methods for patients with brain tumours by analysing tumor DNA circulating in the cerebrospinal fluid (a liquid biopsy).
A biotechnologist isn't a doctor, but contributes major breakthroughs to medicine. Do you think your work is recognised?
I think that the role of the researcher in medicine is gaining increasing recognition. You see it in the newspapers, on the radio and television, and I think it's a good start. More and more scientists are spending some of their time raising awareness of what we do with talks, books and even on social networks! The more engaged society is, the more engaged the government will be, and the media have an important role to play in this area.
I like to do my bit to make science more accessible to society. During my doctorate, I started working as an ambassador for the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) and at the VHIO I also have the chance to take part in outreach activities.
As a specialist in oncology, what do you think Catalonia is lacking to improve cancer research?
There's a lot of potential - we have centres that are international pioneers, and top researchers. But funds are lacking, and it's a pity that a lot researchers who want to be here have to leave to have more opportunities. We need more investment and awareness of the importance of research. Today's research will give us the solutions of tomorrow.
"When you come back, you realise that you've made a small family everywhere you've been, that you're a little from here and a little from there"
Apart from Cardiff, you also lived in Leicester. Why would you recommend people do an Erasmus?
It's an incredible opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally. You go to a new country on your own, making a leap into the unknown... and it's in those situations outside your comfort zone where you begin to discover yourself. You get to know new people, you become immersed in another culture: the language, the customs, the way they work... When you come back, you realise that you've made a small family everywhere you've been, that you're a little from here and a little from there. You're more self-confident and you're more prepared for the next stage.
How do you remember your time at the UVic?
With affection. I learned a lot, and I made very good friends at the University. I used to love practical sessions in the laboratory and field trips. And the seminars where researchers came to talk about an article or book that we had read, and the opportunity to do internships in summer to continue our training. The lecturers were accessible and they were available if we needed any help.
You wanted to be a professional dancer - nothing to do with medicine. What other hobbies do you have to disconnect from your work?
Dancing has always been what fulfils me the most and made me dream while I'm awake. I also like to read, it can be a source of knowledge in your hands or a journey to another story. And above all, sailing, I focus on the wind and the waves ... and I relax my mind.