Pioneering Paths: Lena Ruiz Azuara’s Journey and the Ongoing Challenges for Women in Science

The journey of incorporating women into the scientific realm has been marked by numerous challenges, as stated by Lena Ruiz Azuara, a highly experienced scientist known for her work in developing new drugs against specific cancer types in Mexico. In an interview with The Conference, the emeritus researcher at the Faculty of Chemistry (FQ) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the 2021 National Science Award winner in the Physical-Mathematical and Natural Sciences category discussed the hurdles women face in gaining credibility in the scientific community.

Ruiz Azuara highlighted a pervasive lack of credibility from male counterparts when women, such as herself, approach the medical field to share their experiences. Discriminatory issues and a dearth of trust impede the development of significant projects in universities. She underscored the impact of societal self-doubt, emphasizing the need to challenge the perception that achievements from other countries surpass those accomplished in Mexico, advocating for recognizing the valuable capabilities within the country.

Reflecting on her own career, Ruiz Azuara revealed additional challenges, recounting an incident where she was denied a scholarship for postgraduate studies due to being married. Despite meeting all requirements, she faced discrimination based on gender inequality. Overcoming this setback, she persisted and eventually secured support, illustrating the determination required to navigate such hurdles.

Despite these challenges, Ruiz Azuara expressed gratitude for the enthusiasm displayed by students and collaborators in her less aggressive drug project. She emphasized the vital role young participants play and how their commitment contributes to the project’s success, underscoring the importance of collective efforts in advancing scientific endeavors.

Looking ahead, Ruiz Azuara remains optimistic about the positive impact her drug development project will have on Mexican society. She asserts her commitment to ensuring that any drugs created benefit Mexicans first before reaching other regions. As a pioneer in inorganic chemistry since 1975, she has dedicated over five decades to the development of metal-based drugs and continues to champion the progress of science in Mexico.

In recognizing the exceptional contributions of women in science, Ruiz Azuara cited historical figures like Matilde Montoya, the first doctor, and Esther Luque Muñoz, the first chemist. Encouraging young girls interested in science, she emphasized the unique brain structure of women that enables multitasking and optimization of ideas and activities.

Grateful for the 2021 National Science Award, Ruiz Azuara shared the honor with her dedicated work group. She also announced upcoming conferences on February 15, marking the 25th anniversary of the “Science beyond the classroom” project, aiming to continue fostering scientific knowledge. The first presentation, titled “Chemical and biological bases of love” with Dr. Ignacio Camacho, will be held at the UNAM Faculty of Chemistry and broadcast on its YouTube channel.

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