Lena Ruiz Azuara, a renowned scientist in Mexico with extensive experience in the development of new drugs against certain types of cancer, has spoken out about the myriad of challenges faced by women in the scientific field. One of these obstacles, which she has personally encountered, is the skepticism of men towards their female counterparts. She expressed this sentiment in an interview with The Conference.
As the emeritus researcher of the Faculty of Chemistry (FQ) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a 2021 National Science Award winner in the field of Physical-Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Ruiz Azuara has had numerous experiences with gender discrimination. She noted that many male doctors often lack confidence in developments made by women, leading to a hindrance in the progression of important projects within universities.
Ruiz Azuara also highlighted the prevalent issue of self-doubt among Mexicans, fueled by the belief that foreign-made products or initiatives are superior to those made locally. This mentality, she argues, undermines the talents and capabilities of many valuable Mexican individuals.
In her own career, Ruiz Azuara has faced gender-based challenges of her own. Despite meeting all the necessary requirements, she was once denied a scholarship for postgraduate studies simply because she was married. However, she managed to overcome this setback, securing a half-subsidy from Conacyt for sustenance and eventually receiving a scholarship from the Bank of Mexico in association with UNAM after proving her capabilities.
Despite these hurdles, Ruiz Azuara emphasized the enthusiasm and commitment of her students and collaborators in her drug development project. Their participation has been instrumental to the progress of the project, and she praised their dedication and understanding of the project’s significance.
With the support of her team, Ruiz Azuara remains hopeful and determined to take her drug project to fruition, with the ultimate goal of benefiting Mexican society. She expressed her desire for her drugs to first reach Mexicans, who she feels a duty towards as a product of the country’s education.
Since 1975, Ruiz Azuara has been a pioneer in the field of inorganic chemistry in CF. She attributes her interest in this area to José Herrán, who was a director of the graduate studies and then of the faculty. Herrán’s vision inspired Ruiz Azuara and several other students to seek specialization abroad in areas not available in Mexico.
▲ Ruiz Azuara will be giving talks at the Faculty of Chemistry of UNAM as part of the Science beyond the classroom series on February 15.Photo taken from the page of the Chemical Society of Mexico
She had the opportunity to specialize in inorganic chemistry of metals at the University of Edinburgh, an area that has since become widely recognized throughout Mexico. Over the years, she developed an interest in metals with biological functions, such as iron in hemoglobin, which led to her specialization in this field.
Ruiz Azuara also expressed gratitude towards her high school chemistry teacher, who ignited her interest in chemistry. His teachings inspired her to explore the composition of various materials, which eventually led her to the field of biological chemistry.
She emphasized the vital role that chemistry plays in the universe, being involved in both physical and chemical processes. According to Ruiz Azuara, life itself is a result of biochemical processes.
As a recipient of the 2021 National Science Award, Ruiz Azuara acknowledged the exceptional contributions of women in various scientific fields. She encouraged young girls interested in science to pursue their passion, highlighting the multitasking abilities of women as a strength in optimizing ideas and activities.
Ruiz Azuara was pleasantly surprised by the recognition given to her by the government for her expertise. She shared this honor with her entire team, who have worked diligently for many years.
On February 15, Ruiz Azuara will be part of the Science beyond the classroom conferences, a project celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The first presentation, titled Chemical and biological bases of love and featuring Dr. Ignacio Camacho, will take place at 1 p.m. in Auditorium B of the UNAM Faculty of Chemistry. It will also be streamed on its YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@lcienciamaa).