Univ. Professor

Date and place of birth

December 1979, in Granada (Spain)


Chemical engineering

Interview date

June 27th, 2022

Maricruz Sanchez-Sanchez - short inverview

My research is in the field of catalysis. We look for materials that can make possible chemical reactions that would otherwise not happen. The objective is to establish alternative and more sustainable processes for the production important chemicals and fuels, using renewable sources.

I always loved Science and in particular Chemistry. I chose studying an engineering because I wanted to apply the new knowledge stemming from scientific work. I really like the feeling of finding a solution or solving a difficult problem, which is what engineers do.

First of all, my parents always supported me in pursuing a scientific career. Even though they did not attend University themselves, they highly valued education and that shaped me as a person. Probably the main boost of my career came during my postdoc. It was very stimulating to get out of my comfort zone (a different country, language, and work culture), and there I met many brilliant scientists and built a network that it is still producing interesting collaborations. My mentor during my habilitation years was also very supportive and helped me to go through the struggles of combining maternity with highly competitive scientific research.

I have not experienced any direct or obvious discrimination throughout my career. Although in general academia is a fair environment, there are still biases and attitudes regarding leadership both in men and women’s minds. The lack of female role models in leadership positions in science and engineering has been at times discouraging for me, and in the first stages of my career made me wonder whether “I belonged”.

I am mother of two children, now 4 and 6 years old. I became a mother in the last years of my Habilitation and in a period of high scientific production in my career. I struggled at first with having to stop but, even though I certainly missed some opportunities, overall the impact in my career was not as large as I expected it to be. In a way, having to set aside time for your family makes you incredibly efficient as a worker. 

I think there is not any one-fits-all solution when it comes to balancing a professional career with family. Every family has to find its own way of making things work. However, it is important to make clear to younger generations that it is OK to have a few months break. Most of the funding schemes and competitive processes take parental leave into account nowadays, which is essential to allow mothers to catch up. Certainly, more family friendly working conditions like flexible schedules and avoiding scheduling important meetings after 4 or 5 pm will help all parents, not only women.

In my opinion it is essential to find allies (not only women but also male colleagues) that are willing to promote women and fight back the remaining biases. In some low points during my career, such allies helped me to keep going and not give up. A general advice I often give is to learn to say “no” some times to certain tasks if they take important time from your work projects. In other words, try to keep an objective mind when establishing priorities, and delegate tasks when possible.