Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – CSIC – Spain
Dr. Patricia Boya
1. How did you get into the autophagy field and why is the field important to you?
I was interested in the relationship between lysosomes and cell death and found that autophagy was a pro-survival pathway in mammalian cells, rather than a cell death mode. In comparison with other fields autophagy is rather “new”; we are still trying to unravel how its machinery works. So, there is plenty of things that we still do not know and it is amazing to discover them. My lab is currently trying to decipher why autophagy in important for neurons, from development to aging, with the idea of finding new ways to treat neurodegenerative and other diseases.
2. What is a key question in the autophagy field now? Where do you think the field is heading?
We have first to understand why autophagy is essential for the homeostasis of different cell types and tissues and determine the consequences of its modulation in vivo.
3. Should you meet any scientist, currently living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Santiago Ramon y Cajal, which discovered that the nervous system is composed of discrete units, the neurons, and set the bases for modern neurobiology. He got the Nobel Price in 1906 for those discoveries. He also developed important histology methods to visualize the nervous tissues and was an excellent cartoonist that accurately reproduced what he observed under the microscope. He came from a very humble background and made very innovative discoveries by being perseverant and creative, following his ideas even if they where against the “mainstream”.
4. What advice do you have for early career scientists that want to enter the autophagy field?
Like Cajal, be perseverant and always have your eyes and mind open. Do something that you enjoy and get help/advice from the best ones in that field. Autophagy still has many “black boxes” to be found and enlighten.