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article imageSpain's loss is Harvard's gain as scientist is offered position

By Anne Sewell     Aug 9, 2013 in Science
After working for 18 months without pay at Jaén University in Andalucía, Spain, a Spanish researcher has landed a job at Harvard's prestigious medical school.
Thanks to an agreement between both universities, Leticia Díaz Beltrán was snapped up by Harvard’s Computational Biology Department over a month ago and they are happy to have her.
Díaz was doing a PhD on genetics and autism, but is one of many Spanish scientists who have suffered from the cuts in Spain's research and development (R+D).
Díaz has labeled the future of scientific investigation in Spain as “devastating,” stating that she has received no funds since starting her doctorate in January 2012.
She told the Spanish newspaper, El País via email:
"It's frustrating that the Spanish state spends money on our training, only for other countries to later reap the rewards. It doesn't make any sense."
"Making cutbacks in R&D is the worst thing you can do at a time of crisis; the logical thing to do is invest in knowledge, science, technology and innovation to increase productivity and export values. To incentivize R&D in universities, centers of investigation and companies is primordial right now."
Díaz says that the only way she can progress with her work into autoimmune diseases and their relationship with autism genes, is to do this out of her home country.
Díaz's contract at Harvard is for one year, on a monthly salary of 2,200 euros and despite this, she is keen to return home once her contract is up. However, she doesn't have much optimism for the future in Spain, saying:
"The situation for R&D in Spain is demoralizing. I would like to go back to my university and open new lines of investigation and put into practice everything I'm learning here, but it all depends on the opportunities available - I hope the situation changes. If not, I'll have to think about going abroad again."
Explaining her research, Díaz said:
"Basically, from the molecular point of view, we are searching for the genes that are implicated in autism and their relation with other auto-immune diseases, with the aim of detecting possible therapeutic and pharmaceutical applications, above all for an early intervention for the illness."
As yet another victim of Spain's research crisis, which has taken the jobs of 10 per cent of Spanish scientists in the official research centres (CSIC) in the last 18 months due to drastic government spending cuts, Díaz will likely be one of many scientists taking the drastic step of leaving Spain.
Díaz's department professor at the University of Jaén, Francisco Esteban, is proud of his pupil's move to such a prestigious university, saying:
"It represents a huge slice of recognition and a very important advance in the investigations she is carrying out."
More about Spain, jaen university, Harvard university, USA, leticia diaz beltran
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