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Guillermo Mínguez: “This award helps us raise awareness of the importance of research”

This chemist is the joint winner of the 2018 Princess of Girona Foundation Scientific Research Award, together with chemical engineer María Escudero.

15/06/2018

Researcher at the Institute of Molecular Science at the University of Valencia, Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas (Seville, 1981) is one of the two winners of the 2018 Princess of Girona Foundation Scientific Research Award, together with chemical engineer María Escudero. The jury recognised the winner’s “work designing hybrid molecular sieves that allow tailored nanostructured materials to be synthesised”, and particularly highlighted the impact of his work on magnetic metallic organic frameworks (MOF).

“The new porous materials developed will have a huge impact in fields such as the environment and energy”, predicted the jury for this award, formed of physicist and president of the European University Association Rolf Tarrach (who acted as chairman of the jury), biochemist Fátima Bosch, chemist Avelino Corma, philosopher Adela Cortina, cardiologist and general director of CNIC, Valentí Fuster, sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, researcher and 2015 FPdGi Scientific Research Award winner, Samuel Sánchez, and physicist Lluís Torner.

“It is an honour to receive this award, because it not only recognises all the work my team and I have carried out in recent years, but also the training I have received and the influence of the great teachers I have had”, said Guillermo Mínguez, graduate in Chemistry from the University of Seville and PhD from the University of Sheffield (UK). In addition, he believes that this award is an opportunity to give research and science greater visibility. “Unfortunately, investment in science has been reduced with every round of budget cuts, and awards like this one from the Foundation help us raise awareness of the importance of research for our future”, insisted the chemist.

On this point, he encouraged politicians to inform themselves and take the advice of scientists before making any decisions. “Scientists analyse problems objectively and we seek solutions. All over Europe members of parliament are advised by scientific committees, but not here in Spain”, lamented Mínguez, who also urged politicians to invest more in research because “the countries with the highest growth are those that have invested in science”.

New porous materials
Mínguez’s main area of research is the development of new porous materials, different to those that currently exist, with the goal of making them “capable of selectively storing some gases or of creating new properties, which may, for example, be beneficial to the environment”, explained the chemist, who admitted that, first of all, more research is needed “after which, further down the line, you always find a useful application for your discoveries”.

As an example he mentioned the discovery of some new materials in the 1950s which enabled the development of today’s lasers. “When they discovered these materials, I’m sure that nobody thought that they could be used to create a laser capable of operating on myopia”, explained the award winner, who hopes and trusts that all his team’s research “will have a practical use, even though sometimes we don’t know exactly what this will be”.

Regarding the role of women in the scientific world, Mínguez is of the opinion that there is still a very sexist atmosphere; a situation he has not experienced directly, but one he knows about through his wife, who is also a scientist. “When we go to a weekend congress, for example, she is asked who is looking after the children, whereas I have never been asked that question”, criticised the scientist, who insisted that “clearly, there is no difference between a male and a female scientist”.

To finish, Mínguez recommended that future students “study what they really enjoy. And if you choose an option that you don’t like, there is no shame in changing to another”. Making mistakes is a learning experience, and your work must excite you and fill you with passion”. “It is also important to push yourself to the maximum: if you can give a 10, don’t settle for an 8”, encouraged the doctor.

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