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An Interview with Maria García García

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María J García García is a staff scientist in the Sondermann group. She took the time to answer some questions about her research and inspirations.  

What do you do? Please explain your current role.
I use genetic tools to dissect the processes that contribute to bacterial cell wall homeostasis. The cell wall is unique and essential for bacteria, making this structure an excellent drug target. Some of the most successful antibiotics target cell wall synthesis, yet the emergence of antibiotic resistance has become a threat to our ability to fight infections. By identifying the mechanisms that regulate the synthesis and degradation of the cell wall, my research aims to uncover novel strategies against bacterial infections.

Why did you choose this field?
I would love to be able to say that I chose my career path very carefully and purposely, but the fact is that the decisions I took were confounded by many factors that were not always related to science. I always evaluated my options and chose those that excited me the most. Some decisions did not work out (for instance, I initially wanted to be an immunologist), so I changed plans and looked for things that would work better for me. While I chose thoughtfully every step of the way, I admit that serendipity had a big role into my career, first in becoming a developmental biologists, and more recently a microbial geneticist. So far it has been a great adventure!

What do you find most exciting about your work?
Living things are amazingly complex, yet there is a logic to how they work. I find this complexity intrinsically beautiful and enjoy the challenge of solving the mysteries hidden within.

What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
There have been many memorable moments in my career. My very first paper, then my first paper as a corresponding author. The day I first walked into what would become my own lab at Cornell University. The phone call from an NIH grant officer to tell me my first grant would get funded. Becoming a grant/paper reviewer for the work of others. The list is long, but perhaps the greatest memories have come from mentoring my students and seeing them grow as scientists. I am really proud of their accomplishments.

Advice for the next generation?
Be passionate about what you do (science or otherwise).

Who are your role models or mentors?
I have been lucky to have great mentors through my career, but I owe a great deal to my postdoctoral advisor, Kathryn V. Anderson. I learnt so much from her. I miss her.

Inspirational quote or personal motto:
“No hay ni bien ni mal que cien años dure”. I always liked this Spanish proverb, which means that there is nothing good or bad that lasts forever. It reminds me that one has to live in the moment, while having faith in the future.

When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
Since my kids were born, I have no free time, so I guess my kids are my hobbies? I love them. I like playing with them and seeing them grow. While most of my free time is devoted to my family, I try to carve some time to go swimming and do yoga. Before I had kids, I was always involved into some kind of dancing (ballet, folklore, tango …), loved hiking, and used to enjoy sitting down with a book at the end of the day while listening to classical music.