Interview translated from Spanish by Imagiverse:
When did you know that you wanted to be a chemist?
I couldn't decide between a variety of careers, in both the field of science as well as literature. I don't believe there is an area of science that I do not like. It was when I was in the university that I decided upon chemistry. When I was little, I loved to play around with chemistry and perform interesting experiments. Some were quite exciting, with fire and all sorts of dangers which kids really like. Although those experiences were far from the day to day of a conventional chemist, it is certain that they remained as a very happy time from my childhood and I am sure that they helped me find chemistry to be an interesting field.
What are you doing now as a chemist?
I work in the cosmetics industry, although I need to find a source of financing for my doctoral studies in Italy. It is complicated to find a niche doing research on Gran Canaria and I am very interested in living abroad.
What do you like best about your career? What do you like the least?
I love to constantly use my imagination to find solutions. Chemistry is an invisible universe and to explain such every day things as the color of things can turn into a challenge full of possibilities. However, the wide variety of compounds, processes and reactions in chemistry can exasperate at times and the advances in this science are distressingly long.
Why does analytical chemistry (of all the other chemistries) take particular interest for you?
Because of its many applications and assortment of instrumentation. It is difficult to explain, because it doesn't mean that I don't like other areas of chemistry. It has to do with very concrete preferences and a certain level comfort in the subject. If you asked a soccer player why he prefers to play one position on the field, he probably would respond, "Because it feels most comfortable," but he loves playing and he would do it in whatever other position. Maybe it has to do with avoiding things I dont like in the other areas.
What do you hope to accomplish as a chemist?
I hope to learn enough to help in what ever I can to better this world where we live. For this reason, I want to dedicate my labor to the protection of the environment.
People think of the Canary Islands as a tourist spot. What is it like to live there and call it your home?
The Canary Islands is a wonderful place, especially for vacation and resting. However, a small island has many inconveniences if you would like to discover new places. I live, and have always lived, on Gran Canaria, one of the major islands and the one that has the largest population. The diversity of races is marvelous and the tranquility of these places is unique. Visitors always say that this is a paradise. Unfortunately, living here almost 30 years changes your point of view and you long for many things that are available on the mainland. Here it is always warm. The sun shines year round on the Canary Islands. That is essentially the way it is, but I, for example, have never seen snow. If you discover that all you like is the sun and the beach, this is the perfect place to live.
What is the culture of the Canary Islands?
The culture is predominantly Spanish, with great variety. I refer to the fact that politically we are Spanish and we feel like Spaniards, but culturally -- because of the large immigration between Central and South America and the Canary Islands -- we share many things with Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, etc., like food, accent, dance and other things. The interesting thing is that we are geographically African, and that produces an interesting mixture. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is really a very cosmopolitan city.
What classes did you enjoy the most as a child? Were any particularly difficult or was there anything that you did not like?
I always liked to study. The only thing that I remember held little interest for me was Geography, because I never cared what the climate of the Mediterranean was like or what were the major crops in Brazil. I am still not interested in that sort of thing in the least. I would rather go places and see for myself.
Do you participate in any sports?
I don't have very much time for sports now. Like almost everyone here, I go to the gym and sometimes I go running. I continue to ride my bicycle like I did as a boy and I love all the activities you can do at the beach. On Gran Canaria, we spend a lot of our free time at the beach and you can play soccer or baseball.
What do you consider to be a perfect day?
A perfect day is one when I go to sleep at the end of the day feeling good. A perfect day is a day in which you enjoy good health and the company of good friends; a day with sunshine or rain, in the mountains or at the beach. A perfect day is any day you travel or just stay at home watching movies or documentaries or reading a book or talking to people on the Internet. A perfect day is also a day when you work or go to the library to study. Almost all my days are perfect because one of those things always happens.
What was the most difficult during your years of schooling?
The monotony, the being obligated to spend every day at the library and not be able to do the others things I liked because I didn't have time. It is also difficult to never have enough money because you have a lot of dreams and it takes years to reach them. But in spite of everything, it is all worth the effort. It is marvelous to be able to study at the University and grow as a person.
Is being multilingual an advantage for someone in your field?
Yes! Not only in a career like mine. Science is a universal language but those who work in science communicate in languages as different as Danish and Japanese. I speak English, in addition to Spanish naturally. I love languages. Now I want to learn Italian, because it could be very useful for my future projects. I would also like to learn French in a few years.
English is fundamental for research, because it is the common language for communication between scientists and for scientific articles. However, when I studied English I never imagined that it would be so important in my career. I urge you to learn as many languages as you can because they will open many doors for you.
How do you imagine your future? What do you imagine yourself doing in the year 2015?
I will turn 40. I see myself working on projects to protect the environment and with a thousand plans in my head, as usual. I would like to live in different countries and belong to a small group of researchers, perhaps at a University.
Besides your interest in chemistry, what other things do you like?
Above all, I love to travel. I'm crazy about seeing new places, new cultures, new people. I am an avid writer and I love learning about everything, from cooking to carpentry. I'm interested in outer space, the bottom of the oceans, the tall mountains, the smallest holes, music, history, art and anything picturesque. It's impossible to tell you everything I enjoy.
If you could live in any part of the world, where would you live?
I would like to live in Venice, London or Paris. I would love to spend some time in Canada or Japan and of course, I wouldn't miss New Zealand for anything in the world.
Do you have any words of inspiration you would like to share with students around the world who read this interview?
Don't stop dreaming. Dreaming is as important as breathing. Making the effort to convert our dreams into reality turns us into happy, content individuals.
- 9 August 2003
11 August 2003
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