MSCA Conference speakers - Maria Fátima Lucas
After getting her B.Sc. in Chemistry and M.Sc. and PhD in Computational Chemistry in the University of Porto, Maria Fátima Lucas spent many years working as a researcher in the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), where her work was focused on the development and application of molecular modeling techniques to the study of enzymes.
There she met Emanuele Monza and Victor Gil, with whom she would join forces to build their first company: ZYMVOL, a biotech startup specialized in enzyme design and development through computer simulations. By using computational methods, ZYMVOL can discover and optimize enzymes for very specific purposes in less time than with traditional methods, therefore accelerating the enzyme development process and contributing to the democratization of green chemistry in the industry.
Today, ZYMVOL works with clients worldwide, has successfully run a wide variety of industrial projects and is deeply embedded in the international scientific community. Industries like Pharma, Chemical and Food & Beverage, to name a few, are already benefitting from cleaner chemical processes fueled by high-performing enzymes.
Thanks to this work, in 2020 María Fátima Lucas was one of the winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators, awarded by the European Commission.
She will take part in the 2022 MSCA conference, in the first workshop on gender equality in science.
A few more words
Maria Fátima speaks about her work and her participation in the conference.
Introduce yourself briefly. What are you currently working on?
My name is Maria Fatima Lucas, I hold a PhD in Computational Chemistry and currently I am CEO and co-founder of Zymvol Biomodeling. In our company we help clients in their new biocatalyst developments. We support the implementation of Green Chemistry but we are also committed to creating stable working conditions.
You will participate in the conference as part of the gender equality workshop, why does this topic matter to you?
Most managing positions are occupied by men, even in fields like Biotech.
As a scientist I never really felt that for the fact that I was a woman I had less opportunies. However, once I started working in a company it became clear that most managing positions are occupied by men, even in fields like Biotech. I felt that I needed to try to understand why things are still so uneven and what I could do to help promote diversity, not only in gender.
After a career as a researcher, you are now CEO at Zymvol. What pushed you to leave academic research? And what has this experience brought to your business career?
When i found that for personal reasons I needed to create my own « way of life » that is when the idea of the company appeared.
I left academia not because I wanted to but because there were no opportunities in the city I lived in for a person with my training. I did not want to have a never ending set of contracts. I worked for 9 years at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and never had a permanent contract and that did not seem reasonable to me. When i found that for personal reasons I needed to create my own « way of life » that is when the idea of the company appeared. My prior experience as researcher was very important. For one, I knew how to find any informarion that I did not possess. How to process it and how to find help when needed. A researcher is trained to do what no one has done before However, I must say that if i now went back to academia, the learning I have gained in a company would be extremely useful as a researcher.
What advice would you give to young MSCA scientists who want to start their own business?
Ask for help. Check your local environment, most cities already count with incentives to build businesses.