Ana Páez Garcia
Alcala University, Madrid, Spain (1996-2004); Autonoma University, Madrid, Spain (2005-2010)
Plant Biology doctoral degree
PhD student at National Center of Biotechnology (Madrid, Spain); Teacher of science related subjects: math, chemistry, physics, biology (Madrid, Spain)
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Oklahoma.
Favourite thing to do in my job: I like to understand why things work the way they do and not in some other way. I like trying to find the explanation of why nature has chosen one root system for a specific plant species and not other.
I study how the plants build their root system to explore the soil and reach all the water and nutrients they need.
I study plant roots. Plants have no legs, so they cannot go to the supermarket and grab the food they want. For this, they have the roots. And this is what I study: how the roots grow through the soil to reach the water and the food they need.
There are many different types of soil (clay versus sand) and plants can grow in different environment (dry or very wet), so they need to develop different root types, for example, in a compact soil plants need to build thicker roots to penetrate it as a drill. While in a porous soil the roots can be thinner and they can grow longer because this soil is easy to explore.
On the other hand, different plant species have different roots types. Some of them have one main long root and it develops many laterals, while other species develop a bunch of different root types.
I study which root system fits better with a determined environment, so the plants with this root type can grab the food and the water better and faster and they can grow bigger!!
My Typical Day
I take a look at different plant roots, I have photographic sessions with all of them, they are my top-models and I make a photo album of them.
I also meet with other scientists for discussing about our projects because in the research center where I work, there are different people with different interests. For example, I look at the plants from a laboratory and greenhouse perspective, but some other look at them in the field, so they are more interested in their leaves or their grains. Some other look at the soil composition, etc. We meet all together and we exchange information, what it;s good to have better ideas.
Then, in my leisure time, I enjoy swimming, playing tennis or volleyball. I also like to go out with my friends or to do some hiking. As this is not my home country, I want to visit every place here in the US, so I am travelling a lot!!!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would like to organize a treasure hunt event about science.
I think is gonna be fun to organize some kind of guessing game with different scientific relates topics, and the more the participants guess right, they more they advance to the end of the game.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Patient, kind and good listener.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I am proud of myself for travelling 8000 km for continuing with my scientific career and for learning a lot every day from great scientists.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I was amazed of how things work in nature, and with this many things we don’t know about ourselves, about the universe, about the plants and animals…
What was your favourite subject at school?
It depended on how engaging the teacher was.
What did you want to be after you left school?
Geneticist, I wanted to study cancer.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really, I was a good kid, but curious and talkative.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would like to be a psychologist, or maybe a teacher.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Lately I am listening a lot “La Pegatina”, it is a spanish rumba style group. They are so much fun!!
What's your favourite food?
My mother’s cooking.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Every time that I meet with my friends.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Work as a scientist in my country, start my own family, being always surrounded by my family and my friends.
Tell us a joke.
Since light travel faster than sound, some people may appear bright until you hear them speak :-)