Countries: Spain

Anne Murray

Anne Murray
Artist and curator

Exhibitions of her work in Turkey, France, Italy, Hungary, Spain, China, Belgium and many other places around the world.

Can art change the world?

What is ‘art’? Why do we need it? How have artists throughout history been drivers for social change, and how can they continue to be so in a world that’s rapidly changing?

Anne Murray, a nomadic artist and curator, spoke to Traces.Dreams about her work connecting artists around the world through her platform Cloud Conversations. As an artist herself, Anne has exhibited her work globally, and is passionate about helping artists to tackle issues such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, and other social concerns in their work, by setting up spaces where they can communicate with each other and grow.

For her, art serves many purposes, from helping people to see they aren’t alone, to giving a voice to the feelings we all have as human beings. Through Cloud Conversations, she’s preoccupied with how people can use their knowledge and experience of art to look beyond current world situations, find solutions, and help to create dialogues for change.

Watch the video to find out more, and join in the conversation.

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Read the transcript of Anne Murray's Video here

Anne: My name is Anne Murray and I’m an artist and a curator. I’m working on the curatorial research project that is called Cloud Conversations. I am a nomadic artist. So, I don’t really have a home base but mostly I return to Barcelona. So, I guess that would be my home base.

Nerina: Could you tell me more about this project?

Anne: Yes. The project is connecting artists from different parts of the world, they’re working in different disciplines, different media from: video art, photography, painting, sculpture, installation work, music, all different kinds of art forms and they’re working on different themes. The themes are to do with xenophobia, sexism, racism, Islamophobia and all kinds of global issues including climate change.

Nerina: How did you become an artist?

Anne: I don’t know if I would say that I became an artist. I would say that always throughout my life I was very curious and reflective and I spent a lot of time isolated, alone, just creating things and people started to call me an artist and that’s how it happened. And how I became a curator was really I had an interest in connecting different artists together because I saw that when you put the different artists’ work together it’s like the work itself has a conversation amongst other works. I thought it would be interesting to start to connect the artists and have them have conversations and it stimulates new work and also makes artists feel like they are not alone. They’re working in different parts the world on similar themes and they feel bolstered by that, they really feel more support.

Nerina: Are there some moments or some experiences that really determined or influenced who you are now? 

Anne: I was the only girl, I was the youngest and as I said I spent a lot of time alone because also my brothers were a lot older than me. I think that when you live like that you spend a lot of time reflecting and thinking and kind of developing different ideas. My father read poetry at the dinner table a lot and I really loved poetry and I guess that really influenced my development of the way that I thought and interacted with the world and reflected upon it.

My father died when I was 13 and I think that that really changed my life a lot because it made me realize how important it was to actually seek the things that you really care about and to try new things that you’re afraid of because life is short and it really made me aware of that and aware of the fact that the only thing that we can really rely on and count on in life is change. Things will change, people will live or die, or nature will change, everything around you will change and once you embrace that it really makes life a bit simpler and easier. Because even if you’re in the most difficult turmoil you know it can’t happen forever.

Nerina: Who are you as an artist?

Anne: I create video poetry. So I often go to different countries, staying in artists residencies. I make proposals for different ideas that are related to different things that are going on in current events in those countries, sometimes political issues, sometimes more personal issues and I write poetry. I record my voice and I put that together with imagery and the imagery often has an abstract connection to the words so it leaves room for interpretation and room for a bit of your own interaction, what you bring to it. It’s a little bit more free. It’s not so determined like a play or a movie it gives you a chance to enter into it and leave and enter again like poetry itself. I feel like poetry when you read a line and you read it again you see it in different ways each time you experience it and that’s what I’m looking for in my work.

Nerina: Why video poetry? What does video add to poetry?

Anne: I have always been as well a visual artist as a writer and so it came about naturally. I mean I started I was doing really large-scale drawings, painting on drawings and I started just writing phrases. I didn’t really think of them as poems at first but they became poems and I realized later of course because of my dad I had been exposed to a lot of poetry. Eventually I took… in my very last semester of graduate school, I took a video class and I made my first video poem then and I really loved that combination of things. It really for me it gave me everything I needed in the experience of creating a work.

Nerina: You are a nomadic artist. Why nomadic? 

Anne: It is a good question. I think that what happens when you live in different kinds of environments you’re constantly challenged and challenged in a way where you have to see yourself from the outside and the inside at the same time. Because you see the reflection of yourself in other people; how they react to you, how you behave and you start to have to accept that not all things are the same and your way is not right. It might work in some places, but it doesn’t work in all places and I really, really enjoy this metacognition and having an awareness and making changes and it really sparks my ideas tremendously about how I want to create work. I am fascinated by the interaction that I’ve had with so many different people from different cultures. I feel that it is expanded my mind tremendously. That you actually have many different options as a human being about how you’re going to interact with people, how you’re going to depend on them, how you’re going to you embody and embrace the idea of working as a community and I love it, I love that. So that’s why.

Nerina: Is there a place where you have felt a special connection to? 

Anne: Most recently I was just in Algeria and I really loved it. I was there for the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art in Oran. I had a work exposed there and I was really impressed by the generosity of people and their curiosity and also that they really felt it was important to understand from the artist what their intentions were and they asked a lot of really great questions when I was at the exhibit. It was very inspiring as an artist because often you can have an exhibition and maybe people come to an opening and they’re a little bit afraid to ask questions. Maybe they are intimidated by the art world, but I didn’t find that there. I found there was a thirst for knowledge and a thirst for an idea of what art could be and how far it could go and how it could connect to their own lives and I loved it.

Nerina: Which was the question that impressed you the most?

Anne: Somebody asked me about how I came up with the idea for the piece that I showed. The piece that I showed was called Exquisite Exodus and they really wanted to know why personally I had made the choices of the poem; the things that I said in the poem. Because in the poem I talk about the blue sky and it being a point of reference and something that makes me feel a sense of home.

Because the pieces about the Exodus of course from Syria and it’s relating my own life and my own experiences to what people go through when they have to leave there homes. I was thinking about having lived away from any sort of home for many years and traveling from one month to the next to do these projects of what is my focal point, where was the place where I call home and what can remind me of that and what would it be for somebody who had lost everything that was their home. Even the buildings, the cities are destroyed in Syria and so I thought it’s the blue sky.

When you look at the blue sky from anywhere in the world you can feel a sense of the grander scale of things and a sense that you have some constancy and some degree of change. So that for me gave me a sense of home and I related that to what perhaps if you are someone who has lost her home what you might think of or look at to have a sense of security.

Nerina: Why do we need art?

Anne: This is probably the biggest question every artist asks themselves, and many people and communities ask. I think that art serves many purposes and it can function in society in a lot of different ways.

For myself the way that I’ve started to use art is to help people to see that they aren’t alone, that there are connections between things, to give a voice to the feelings that we have as human beings that we often have trouble expressing and that we can relate to when we in theater and music and visual art. When you see those feeling expressed you can expel them and you can move onto the next thing and really that cathartic element of art is very, very crucial.

But another element of it is also how you can use your knowledge and your experience of art to look beyond current situations and to find solutions. Because art can connect people, you can create community projects and you can connect artists from across the world and find solutions for problems. Problems such as: xenophobia, sexism, racism. How do we address these problems? Artists find creative ways to do that and to create dialogues and so art serves a purpose where we have a gap in society.

Where there are many things that we look at in the media and we feel helpless. What can we do or what do you do? This is just human beings. These are just things that happen over and over again in history. It’s not true. Actually, if you look at history it’s often people who have looked at things from the outside, from a bit of distance, from a creative effort in any way with some different sense of logic that have created a way and a path towards change. So art’s purpose really is to create change and to embrace change.

Nerina: What is the most important lesson that you’ve learnt from this project? 

Anne: The most important lesson that I have learned is to have compassion, to really understand what it is to be compassionate. From living in different cultures, from experiencing different cultures and creating works that are related to a whole different cultural background in different countries I have learned so much about compassion. About how when we see things and perceive things the window that we are looking through can be very narrow and that compassion is actually looking at something from multiple windows and that that’s really beautiful.

Nerina: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Anne: This is a tough question. But of course I would like to have a pavilion at the Venice Biennial and I think I would like to have an in four years. Maybe that’s not enough time and after that I hope that I will still be working on this project; the Cloud Conversations research and doing curatorial work and also as a fine artist: as a video artist, a video poet. I hope to be in different museums around the world.

I want to be an artist like Marina Abramovic. I really admire her work. I got to meet her recently at the Serpentine Gallery. It was actually about three years ago, but it really impressed me. Her compassion and her kindness and actually we both cried when we met. She hugged me and she handed me a tissue. I was so amazed and I thought wow you know when you become a star, an artist star it doesn’t have to mean that you lose your sense of self and your sense of kindness and that really gave me the drive to keep going and to feel that I could also be one of these great artists in this century.

Nerina: Why is she your hero?

Anne: You know, at first when I was younger I didn’t understand her work. I thought maybe it was a bit crazy you know to allow people to take weapons and cut her. Like she put them out on the table and people had the option to do whatever they wanted to her in one of her performances and I didn’t really understand and now I completely understand. I think that to expose yourself, to be as vulnerable as possible to humanity is probably the bravest thing that you could ever do and the biggest trust and faith in people and that’s why.

Nerina: What keeps you going? What motivates you?

Anne: Sometimes it’s hard to keep going but I have this incredible drive. I think I have this passion that it’s unstoppable and the more momentum I gain the more I keep going. There’s a lot of times when I realize that people come to me there is a moment when maybe I feel like it’s a little bit too hard and always, always there’s somebody who comes to me and says something about how meaningful what I’m doing is and how important it is and it’s like a treasure.

Nerina: What kind of society do you dream of?

Anne: I want everyone to have that openness to experience life and to accept that all the different perspectives are important, and because of that you can experience life with the utmost richness, a depth beyond anything you can imagine.

Nerina: There are people who say that they do not understand art or they do not understand poetry. What would you tell them?

Anne: Every piece and every moment is a piece for you to experience. Because for myself there has been work like I talked about Marina Abramovic’s work. When I was younger I didn’t have the life experience really to even understand what she was doing and a huge part of that wisdom that comes from your life experience is what helps you to access and understand and indulge in art. It’s something that you indulge in, that you take a moment and it’s like eating chocolate. It’s like you can take that richness in and remember it and it’s not for everyone at every moment but there is something to be taken from art for everyone.

It’s just that you have to accept and understand that perhaps you need to also give something in the experience of looking at a piece of art, as a viewer you have to read and educate yourself and understand and try to look at what’s the perspective, the context of a piece of work is. Like reading a book the literature that you read you look at what country the person was from, what with her political situations, what was the culture like when a book was written. You have the whole context of life experience it’s the same with any person when you meet somebody. A lot of people maybe you like right away but then there are other people who are more quiet and you’re not sure, and those sometimes are the people that you really should spend time with because they have so much hidden inside and it takes time to know them and a piece of art is like that. You need to spend time with it like you would spend time with a child or a friend or a grandparent.

Nerina: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are these kinds of connections of artists so important? 

Anne: It’s interesting because when I was in art school I didn’t feel this. I felt that a lot of times our differences were highlighted as artists instead of our connections. When you finish school and then you go out into the world and you’re alone in your studio it’s hard, it’s a difficult process to then connect and understand things. And I think that it really helps artists when they connect with each other, when they see how they see things, how they examine things, how they reflect on the world is similar and that those things can as a community working from around the world create and can be a catalyst for change in the world, for society, for good in the world.

I mean, of course, you can use it for something negative too; it’s a very powerful thing to create a piece of work. We know that, we see that, we see how in some countries artists are put in jail for creating a painting. It’s happened in Turkey to a young woman. She also got almost three years in jail for doing a painting. Art is powerful. It’s something that we know it’s powerful because it taps into and connects with something that’s so much from inside our humanity of the core of who we are as human beings, it taps into our emotions, our life experiences, all of the things that we care about and because artists are alone in creating we need to help them. We need to give them the chance to connect with each other so that they don’t become too fearful and give up or die you know from lack of attention really. It’s so important because they are like the shamans of society, they can bring to us something that we wouldn’t have in our lives without them.

Nerina: Why does Anne need poetry? 

Anne: I need it because without it I have no way to express my life experience and I feel this need. Perhaps it’s a human need, maybe it’s a selfish need or something that we need to capture our life experience and give it some kind of precious attention. So when I create a poem it’s sort of like a talisman. That talisman holds within it my feelings, my emotions, my perception at a particular point in my life that I can go back to again and I can feel it again and I can feel it in the same way that I felt it in that moment and otherwise I can’t.

You know, when I look at a photo it doesn’t have quite that quality but with words I feel it. Because I’m very, very selective about my words and there’s a richness in poetry that is very visual and it can capture the vision of an experience, the essence of something for me in such a powerful way that I really treasure being able to read it again. So that’s why.

Nerina: Is there a poem that you like in a special way? 

Anne: Perhaps I can read something. Can we stop then I can take the line?

Nerina: Oh, please it will be great. 

Anne: Yes, I’ll read a line from a poem it’s called A Weary Thing It Is. It’s about the boundary between love and friendship and kind of questioning that.


Exhibitions of her work in Turkey, France, Italy, Hungary, Spain, China, Belgium and many other places around the world.

Armando Azua-Bustos

Armando Azua-Bustos

TED Fellow 2017, Research Scientist at the Centro de Astrobiología, Madrid, Spain, PhD. Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, MSc. Biological Sciences, MSc. Biochemistry.

Atacama, astrobiology, and the secret of life

What is life? If we hope to find life on other planets, what should we look for? Armando Azua-Bustos, a research scientist at the Centro de Astrobiología, Madrid, Spain, is researching life in one of the places you would least expect to find it – the Atacama Desert. He hopes to discover forms of life that are far different from those we know: a life that is not dependent on water.
Armando’s findings may help us to develop new forms of agriculture, and hopefully, not only for here on Earth.

Watch the video:
Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Armando Azua-Bustos's Video here

Armando: Hello, everyone, my name is Armando Azua Bustos; I am a Chilean scientist working in Spain. I consider myself to be an astrobiologist.

Nerina: What is astrobiology?

Armando: Well, astrobiology is quite a recent field of research. It’s concerned with trying to understand the origin of life on Earth and the possibility of finding life elsewhere in the universe. And in my case, it seems we are looking for water as a proxy for finding life on Mars and in other places in the Solar System and beyond. And we’re trying to understand the close and intimate relationship between water and life in order to understand, not only life on Earth but, the possibility of finding life elsewhere by looking at water.

Nerina: How do you conduct your research?

Armando: Well, I try to understand the possibility of finding life on Mars. And since I don’t have $6.5 billion in order to send my own robot to Mars, what I do is I try to study the environments on Earth that most closely resemble the conditions on Mars. In my case, I’ve been studying the Atacama desert in Chile—since it’s the oldest and driest desert on Earth, and a world-recognised Mars model.

Nerina: How did you get into this topic?

Armando: Well, I have an interesting story behind that because when I got my first academic degree, I went into winemaking—I had a Bachelor of Science in winemaking. So I started working as a winemaker, but after working for a short time in that field, I realised that I liked science much better, so I came back to study and got a C in my academic degree. And I had a unique advantage that I was born and raised in the Atacama Desert. So when, in 2003, NASA proposed that the Atacama was a proper model of Mars, I detected that I had an advantage there because I knew the desert very well.

I was now studying at all the same sites that, by my memory, I do remember seeing interesting facts, and interesting things that I am now going back to, in order to discover them again—but from the point of view of science. And actually, when I left the desert—since I was living in a small mining town, I had to leave that city in order to get to the college—I remember looking out the plane window and thinking, ‘Well, I will never come back here, because there’s nothing to do,’ and years later, I’m thinking exactly the opposite. Every time I can, I come back to the desert because there’s so much to do.

Nerina: How was it growing up in a desert? 

Armando: That’s part of my story because there wasn’t much to do except explore the Atacama because in those times we only had two TV channels. So most weekends my parents would take us roaming in the desert, everything from following Inca trails, to finding fossils, and taking our telescope out at night. So from a young age, I developed this love of exploring. And then when I was able to drive myself, I would go with my friends and do the same thing. In some way, I turned that hobby into a profession. So for others, they call it work, but in my case, I have a lot of fun with it.

Nerina: What is the most fascinating aspect of the Atacama Desert?

Armando: The fact that life is able to endure even the most extreme conditions. You’ll see a picture of this place, and you’d say, ‘How is it possible that anything would be able to live here?’ But if you know what to look for, you will find one or two of these different life forms, and you’ll wonder how it’s possible. It’s the way that life is able to adapt to the most extreme conditions that is fascinating, in the case of the Atacama.

Nerina: The Atacama Desert is also a very important place for research right?

Armando: Well, it’s also fascinating that in the Atacama, you have the biggest telescope on Earth. And by 2030, 70% of the biggest telescopes on Earth will be located in the Atacama because of its clear skies. You have very little water in the atmosphere, so that’s a huge advantage; you have almost no clouds in those types of areas, so that’s a place you want to have your telescope—your very expensive telescope. So it’s incredible that from that same place that people are looking up in order to find the answer to ‘Are we alone?’ I’m doing exactly the same, but looking down to the soil trying to find the same answer.

Nerina: What is life?

Armando: There have been entire conferences trying to define a common definition of what life is, and it has been not achieved. Amazingly, even a small child can recognise what is a living thing and what is not. But we have not been able to come up with a universally accepted definition of what life is.

Nerina: What did you discover?

Armando: What I have found is that life is able to adapt to the most extreme conditions of the Atacama, in terms of UV radiation and desiccation. So I have discovered a number of different, new, microbial species, and also a few plants that are able to live with very little amounts of water. In one of these very dry places, where it was reported that it was as dry as Mars, even in that place we have found a number of different microorganisms. This suggests that, from the point of view of water availability, you shouldn’t have any problems in detecting life on Mars.

Nerina: Why is it this way?

Armando: That we don’t know. We still don’t know how it’s possible that life is able to survive with such little water. Actually, I’m now writing an entire research proposal in order to understand what the molecular mechanisms are that explain why these microbial life forms are able to tolerate such low conditions of water availability, and how they are able to endure in that particular condition.

Nerina: What is the most relevant question you have right now?

Armando: The question that I have now is that since the Atacama is the driest and oldest desert on Earth, it seems interesting from the point of view of evolution life always has the same selective pressures in order to be very efficient in the capture, retention, and use of water in order to survive. So we now think that most life on Earth, when confronted with desiccation, will either die or enter into some mode of waiting, a mode of stasis, waiting for better conditions in order to reassume roles and metabolisms. But in the case of the Atacama—and this is the driest research I’m proposing and doing now—I’m saying, maybe in the Atacama, the life forms that are able to live there already adapted to that, and have adapted to live with very little, if no, water at all. And that would change the definition of life on Earth because all life on Earth depends on water and is related to water. And we have preliminary evidence of microorganisms in the Atacama that some of their biochemical functions are still able to go on without, or with almost no water at all. So the big question that I have now is, ‘Is life able to become, at some point, independent of the presence of water?’ That’s my main question now.

Nerina: And what is the challenge here?

Armando: The challenge here is both intellectual and from the method because of the common paradigm now. The actual paradigm that is from the scientific community is that life either dies or enters into some form of rest in order to wait for better conditions in terms of water availability. So you should not see any metabolic activity in the desiccated state. So first, you have to think really hard about what experiments you’ll have to undertake, in order to prove that you are really seeing some type of life form that is able to grow, and still has some metabolic activity in the desiccated state. To me, it’s like showing you have a dancing mummy! You know, mummies that are able to walk, and talk, and go around. It’s the same intellectual challenge trying to convince a community that’s saying, ‘You should not have any activity in the desiccated state.’ And I’m proposing exactly the opposite.  It seems that here in the Atacama, for the given reasons, I do expect to have active metabolisms, where life is still going on, with almost no water at all.

Nerina: What could this research mean for our future?

Armando: Of course, there’s a basic idea on how to understand the close relationship between water and life, in using these kinds of microorganisms. You may also think about the potential applications of understanding that kind of tolerance. We do know, for example, that some of the genes we have already discovered, that some people have worked with similar genes of other desert species in much wetter deserts. In this case, they have to produce one gene, for example, to make a plant. And now, instead of irrigating that plant every day, you can irrigate it every week, and the plant will be just fine. So, it has a huge implication on developing new crop features that are highly tolerant to desiccation. So having that kind of species, that requires much less water to survive, would be a great advancement for science and for humanity.

Nerina: So, your work could influence agriculture on Earth, but you’re also researching how to grow plants outside our planet, right?

Armando: Well, remember the movie ‘The Martian’, where Matt Damon grows potatoes on Mars? Well, we actually don’t have any experience of that. So we’re trying to send along with NASA a small greenhouse, to Mars, in order to grow the first plant outside of Earth. The idea is to take seeds to Mars in a closed, small greenhouse, in order to see if those seeds will germinate on Mars by adding a little water to that closed container—to see if they will germinate as well as they would on Earth—considering that on Mars, they would have less gravity and much more radiation. So we’re doing those very preliminary experiments thinking about human colonisation on Mars and also on the Moon.

Nerina: Would you like to go to Mars?

Armando: No. Not yet. It’s quite dangerous. I mean, only one-third of whatever you send to Mars arrives there. So it’s quite dangerous. Maybe in 50 years, if you have at least a 50% chance of coming back alive, then I will be interested in going to Mars. But for now, it’s just too dangerous.

Nerina: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Armando: I see myself as an expert in my field, and I see myself already having sent a few things outside Earth—to the International Space Station, maybe to Mars, maybe to the Moon.

Nerina: Where do you see humanity in 100 years?

Armando: I see humanity, hopefully, as a wiser species. We are just learning about all the damage that we have done to our planet—I hope that in 100 years that, again, is a lesson already learned.

Nerina: What does it mean to you to be a scientist?

Armando: It is an important role because we are producing new knowledge. Knowledge has no value if you don’t share it. So, from my point of view, scientists should be very humble and always be available to share what they have learned with others.

Nerina: You wrote a children’s book called, ‘Are We Alone’, why did you write it?

Armando: Because I detected that there was no book on Astrobiology for children. Amazingly, since this is a field that has many researchers, no one tried to close that bridge in order to get astrobiology to be a well-known term—as is Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. So that the next generation knows about Astrobiology being a proper field of science, that was my idea.

Nerina: Why is it important to write for children?

Armando: I was inspired by Jacques Cousteau, by Carl Sagan, and others, in the joy of discovery, in the joy of learning new things. So, what I’m trying to actively do is talk with children from very young ages to encourage the students in the joy of learning new things. Because that can only be positive for you—independent of whether you go into science, humanities, or art—that drive, in order to better yourself in order to do things that contribute to humanity, that’s very valuable.

Nerina: Are we alone?

Armando: Well, you must consider that just in the close vicinity of the sun, like in your own neighbourhood, we have now detected almost 4000 different planets—and that’s just in the close vicinity of the sun. And it has been estimated that in our galaxy alone, there are more than 1 billion planets—and from that fraction, there should be at least 100 thousand inhabited planets. So if life has been able to adapt to so many different conditions on Earth, it wouldn’t surprise me that that would be the same case in other solar systems and beyond. So are we alone? I’m positively certain that we are not alone.

Nerina: What more would you like the world to know about the Atacama?

Armando: Well, what I’m trying to do now is change the view that the Atacama is a sterile place. It’s interesting because even the definition of ‘desert’ is that there’s nothing interesting to see. If you go to a party where there’s no one around, or things are very boring, you say, ‘Well, this party looks like a desert.’ Well, I’m trying to change the definition to mean that deserts are as interesting places as jungles—but you have to be more subtle in the way you look, in order to find the interesting things that are happening in deserts.

Nerina: What does it mean to look at the sky in the darkness in the Atacama?

Armando: Well, it’s amazing because in the Atacama the skies are so clear—and there aren’t many places where there’s no light pollution. I can remember walking in the Atacama on a moonless night and seeing my shadow produced by the light of the stars, a star shadow. That is amazing, and I don’t think there are many places in the world you can see that; a star shadow.

Nerina: It sounds incredible. What do you miss when you’re not there?

Armando: I miss the wind. I miss the amazing landscape that reminds you of your lone place in the universe.

Nerina: Why do humans look for other places?

Armando: Well, that is inherited in all of us. Humans explore. Even me, or you, if you see a small hill, you feel compelled to go up that little hill to look around. If you are around a corner, you feel compelled to see what’s on the other side. We are, by nature, explorers. So, now that we have explored almost all of the places we can explore on Earth, we are now looking abroad. It’s inbuilt in ourselves; we want to see what’s on the other side.

Nerina: What kind of society do you dream of?

Armando: A more kind society. Kind—we have to be kinder to each other. I am a scientist, but I’m also a Christian, so the principle that guides Christianity, and all the good religions, is to be better with the people around us. It is very simple. I always tell my students this, try to do something good for anyone at least once a day. If you do that, calculate how many good things you will have done by the end of the week, by the end of a month, by the end of a year, by the end of a decade, and by the end of your life. When you do that, and if you do that, you can go to the other side, whatever that other side is, with pride.

Nerina: What motivates you?

Armando: You know, when you say what motivates you, you have to define that motivation in order for it to drive you forward. But I don’t need such motivation because I have so much fun with what I do—I enjoy what I do so much—that I have no need for motivation. Do you know what I mean?

Nerina: That’s great!

Armando: I do have a lot of fun with what I do, so I don’t need such motivation.

Nerina: Is there something that you would like to change if you had the possibility?

Armando: That’s a very interesting question, I will think about that until tomorrow! I would go back to the point where hominids were evolving, in order to remove the tendency of violence in Homo sapiens. That I would do; that would solve so many things.

Nerina: Do you have a dream?

Armando: A dream? Just to be happier, simple.

Nerina: Thank you, so much Armando.

Armando: Thank you.


TED Fellow 2017, Research Scientist at the Centro de Astrobiología, Madrid, Spain, PhD. Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, MSc. Biological Sciences, MSc. Biochemistry.

Dolores Bueno López

Dolores Bueno López
PhD in chemistry

Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
Dolores Bueno López works at Nanomol group which is part of ICMAB-CSIC and CIBER-BBN.
Using compressed fluids they work with nanocapsules made of lipids that can encapsulate proteins, trying to help in some rare diseases like Fabry disease and Sanfilippo syndrome.
Both diseases are associated with a metabolic disorder, causing the storage of certain metabolites in the body. You can have a look at their last paper in the matter of Fabry disease HERE.

Nanotechnology, rare diseases, and dreams

Modern medicine saves millions of lives around the world every year. But not all diseases get the same attention from medical research. There are some rare diseases which are not investigated properly, and the reason for this is a lack of resources. Nevertheless, there are still researchers who are passionate about their work. Dolores Bueno Lopez is one of them.

Watch the video:
Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Dolores Bueno López's Video here

Dolores: My name is Dolores Bueno López; I am doing my PhD thesis in science material at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Nerina: What is the topic of your dissertation?

Dolores: The topic of my dissertation is: we’re studying capsules – liposomes, which are made of lipidic materials and we try to encapsulate different proteins or molecules in order to treat some diseases.

Nerina: What is the purpose of your dissertation?

Dolores: The purpose of my dissertation is to study the chemical and physical properties of our liposomes because we are changing little things like the composition of the ratio between the components. We are also changing the final properties of our Nano carriers and the nanomedicine. My topic is not nanomedicine but science material; in the end we want the application to be in nanomedicine but we are studying the properties at a very basic level.

We want to reduce the doses, to reduce the side effects of the treatment and to functionalize the superficiality of our Nano drug in order for it to go to the target specifically. We are studying the chemical and physical properties of these capsules but our aim is that it can be used in rare diseases for nanomedicine.

Nerina: What kind of diseases are we speaking about?

Dolores: They are rare diseases so they have a low incidence in the population. They don’t have a lot of resources to investigate such diseases so I am proud and happy that in my group we are dedicated to investigating that. Those diseases that I speak of, Fabry disease and Sanfilippo syndrome are both about the lack of an enzyme, a protein inside our cells that is in charge of degrading some metabolites that are a waste of the cell. If this protein lacks, these residues and metabolites start accumulating in the cells causing several symptoms thus leading to these diseases.

Nerina: Why is it that difficult to find a treatment or to put this enzyme into the patient? What is the challenge?

Dolores: The challenge is to avoid the degradation of the enzyme and to really focus the treatment in the zones in the body that have to make the action.

Nerina: Why did you want to become a researcher?

Dolores: Well, I think that when I was little, when I was a teenager, I was impacted by some diseases like Alzheimer’s that existed in my home. My great grandmother had it, and also my grandmother now has this disease, so it impacts me how a person can lose all her memories and become a child, kind of. I feel that science can change that and science is the solution to improve the life of people that are suffering. So, I think that that influences my way of thinking.

Nerina: Why are you so passionate about science? What is so fascinating for you?

Dolores: That it can really explain the world we live in and give us answers and also that with these answers we can change the world because we can apply these answers to create technology. I really hope that science will make us better humans.

Nerina: In what way?

Dolores: In a way that we are going to have more knowledge and I expect that this makes us really wise so that we can avoid wars and all this kind of things because we are at a higher level. This is a very long futuristic hope but I would like to see that science can really change our lives for better. Not only in curing illnesses but also in making us better people.

Nerina: What would you like to change in science? 

Dolores: Well, I have a kind of romantic way of thinking about science. I think that science is an accumulative knowledge that we all make so there should be an open source and free access for all the people in the world.

Nerina: What do you like doing when you are not working on research?

Dolores: I really like speaking about my research but speaking in a way that my mother or my grandmother can understand what I am talking about. Because I really like my job, I want people to understand the joy and the passion I have for what I am doing. So in my spare time I have a blog or I collaborate in different blogs or platforms.

Nerina: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Dolores: I would love to see myself in Africa working maybe in a small lab; but working in soil chemistry in order to improve agriculture in this zone, that’s my dream.

Nerina: Thank you very much, Dolores.

Dolores: Thank you. I liked this conversation a lot.


Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
Dolores Bueno López works at Nanomol group which is part of ICMAB-CSIC and CIBER-BBN.
Using compressed fluids they work with nanocapsules made of lipids that can encapsulate proteins, trying to help in some rare diseases like Fabry disease and Sanfilippo syndrome.
Both diseases are associated with a metabolic disorder, causing the storage of certain metabolites in the body. You can have a look at their last paper in the matter of Fabry disease HERE.

Karina Pombo-Garcia

Karina Pombo-Garcia
Researcher at Helmholtz-Zentrum

Dresden-Rossendorf, (HZDR) Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research, Germany

Nanotechnology and cancer diagnostics

The best cure for cancer we have today is to diagnose the disease in its early stages – but we don’t have such technology yet. The main problem with this kind of diagnostics is that the materials we use are attacked by our immune system. Karina Pombo-Garcia’s aim is to develop a new form of early cancer diagnostics which is compatible with the human body.

Watch the video:
Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Karina Pombo-Garcia's Video here

Karina: Hi, My name is Karina Pombo-Garcia and I’m doing my Ph.D. in the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf and I think I’m a little bit of a dreamer.

Nerina: And your dream is to better detect cancer…

Karina: To detect cancer at an early stage is one of the best cures that we have at the moment. That means that if we detect it very soon, we have much more chances to cure cancer than if we detect it later on. That is why detection of cancer is so important and that is very challenging.

Nerina: Why is it that difficult to detect cancer nowadays?

Karina: So, at the moment we don’t have the technology to detect it at a very early stage, and we need more sophisticated techniques that increase insensitivity that medical doctors can use in the clinic. So that is the big challenge.

Nerina: What was the goal of your PhD?

Karina: So my research is based on small nano-particles that once injected into the patient, allow the doctors to visualize much more precisely and sensitivity to cancer. The goal of my Ph.D. has been to develop a new novel system, ultra-small particles, so we’re talking about particles smaller than 5 mm, that on the surface of these little balloons, we decorated with different things. So the challenge was to put those different things onto the surface and make the whole complex still something worth trying. So, on the surface, we had like a small light that allows us to follow the tumor. We also had another substance, like another molecule that carries what we need to detect cancer via PET imaging. It also has a small key, if we imagine it’s like a key that will open the door, so that door will be the cancer cells, and that key addresses the nano-particles where they have to go, and at the same time avoid that these nano-particles go somewhere else, to organs that we don’t want them to go. So it has been a big challenge because it has been a lot of mix of biology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, physiology, in one single thing.

Nerina: Why is it difficult to find a substance?

Karina: It is difficult to find a substance but it is more difficult to bring that substance into the human body. Because in our body we have like a “police” that is called the immune system, and what this immune system does is that it will degrade any kind of substance that it doesn’t like, let’s say. So if that happens, whatever we have created makes no sense because it will never reach the cancer. That is the challenge, to inject or create something that is still compatible with the human body.

Nerina: What was the biggest challenge during your Ph.D.?

Karina: The biggest challenge was to stick to what you think is the right thing to do. You will deal with many people that will say you know, this is just not possible or how are you going to prove this, or this is too much work, so I think the biggest challenge was to say I believe in this, and I will carry on with what I have done.

Nerina: What did you discover?

Karina: Where I have reached after these four years of Ph.D. is that we have developed a new system that we have tried in-vitro and in-vivo with promising results and from the basic knowledge in front of you. It was a huge step I think.

Nerina: Is there a day that stood out in a special way?

Karina: Yes, I think that the day that we tried, two days I would say. So one day was the day that we saw the first video of how these particles internalize into cells, so we kind of see which direction they’re taking, where, and opening to many more questions such as why are they going here and not somewhere else as we would have expected. And also the day that we tried in vivo, although there were many things to improve in the results, it was so exciting to see how this system works through this living organism. It was a funny story because I sent one of the videos to my mom and although she is not in this field, she was so excited, she said: “Oh look at that, look at that”. Ok, I think I showed it to many people but I think if you’re passionate about your work, you always want to spread it around.

Nerina: Who inspires you?

Karina: My inspiration always comes from my parents; because they give me the freedom to always do whatever I want to do without asking me why are you doing this now, or think of the next step, or think of what you’re going to do. I never had that pressure as I always had 100% support from their side, and that is very inspiring because it’s like they are pushing you to develop yourself.

Nerina: What makes Nano-particles so special to you?

Karina: Nano-particles is like playing with these little Legos that kids play with, so you change something, and Nano-particles become something different completely to what it was before, and you can keep on changing and keep on investigating what else you can do with them. At the same time, it’s very challenging because there’s no methodology to characterize them so precisely yet; and that makes it a very exciting topic to research on.

Nerina: How important is communication for research?

Karina: Communication is very important for the society because society wants to know what researchers are doing in their lives. It’s a way to pay off, that they support us with their taxes; most of us get paid by government institutions, so it’s good feedback. But at the same time, and it’s a point that not many people see is that researchers are experts in whatever they do. So it means that they are the ones who have to teach people about the big challenges of the society nowadays. So, I see researchers as educators somehow.

Nerina: Is there anything that you would like to change?

Karina: I would like to believe that the only limitation that a scientist has to have is the creativity that they have, and not something else. I know that we still have to deal with other things, but I feel that the main limitation should be with creativity, and not other random things.

Nerina: What is your wish for the future?

Karina: I think we need dreamers in life, not just in research, but in any field, we need people that do things passionately and that dream very big. Especially in research, we need dreamers because in most cases we work with things that we don’t know or we don’t know how they’re going to be experienced or react. So we need, in research, to leave our creativity and freedom very free, so we need to dream.

Nerina: Thank you very much, Karina.

Karina: You’re welcome Nerina, thank you very much for this interview.


Dresden-Rossendorf, (HZDR) Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research, Germany

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