The Heroine’s Journey of Gloria Fuentes

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

After many years of being a researcher and blocking more creative processes, I am thrilled to be able to combine both science and art to bring scientific observations and findings to a broad public to improve scientific literacy in Society. and adjust to the new changes that The digital revolution has brought new changes in the way we communicate and Science needs also to adjust to them. I really believe that STEAM and not only STEM is the way to go. So I am enjoying my work like a kid with a new toy!

What is my idea of happiness?

This is a difficult one, are all the questions like that? 

I am in a moment in my life where I would not be able to pinpoint the most important things defining happiness. It does not mean I am not happy with what I have and where I am, but for me, happiness is this feeling of internal peace that you get when all the aspects of your life make sense at the same time. Imagine you have been working on a difficult project for a few weeks, happiness is to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in complete silence savoring all the good things that came out of finishing it. So something like that but on a larger scale is what I would describe as my happiness. 

What is my greatest fear?

I have made mistakes in my life and one thing I fear the most is not making peace with those I might have hurt in the past for being a coward and not communicating my feelings clearly to them. 

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

My stubbornness and value judgment are remarkable. On the other hand, my theoretical level of empathy can be on occasions very high, but things affect me greatly and I tend to keep it for myself rather than asking for help or confronting it. I guess I am a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

As a person who has not so long ago changed her professional path I admire different people from various fields. 

As a scientist, I was fascinated with the strength and charisma of Dr. Barbara  Knowles. At a time when I was lost, she told me to see further than my nose. It might sound not very scientific but we are also humans and it is good to be reminded. 

Mesa Schumacher is always an inspiration from the scientific illustration world with her 36 hours a day. 

And of course Harietta Eleftherochorinou. She was a student when I first met her, but she has become a real role model for all of us professional women.

What is my greatest extravagance?

Crazy large amounts of Bobby Brown cosmetics when I barely put on any makeup. 

On what occasion would I lie?

I hate lying, but I have done it and would do it again to protect someone I love and avoid their suffering.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

I really do not like the hierarchy that many clients adopt when working with creative people. I do not believe that we need pyramid-style work interactions.  I am good at something and you at something else so let’s push it together without anyone being the “boss” and the other the minion. Work relations need to be more flexible and dynamic.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

I am very very stubborn. After my first postdoc in the Netherlands, I went to work at the CNIO in Madrid (Spain). Most of the people there were working on different topics from the one I was trained in. I knew it will be difficult to work on a personal project since it was not something that they were experts on nor keen on spending resources. For 3 years I tried to build a story that I thought  put together all the knowledge that I have acquired during my Ph.D. and postdoc, in a storytelling format but of relevant importance in cancer  

There were many moments when I doubted myself and thought that I will never be able to publish my findings in any article. But during Christmas break, I got an email that the paper was accepted in one of my favorite scientific journals. I do not remember exactly how I celebrated but knowing me and my habit to open beverages with bubbles, I guess I got a bottle of champagne or 2. 

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I am good with hiding my feelings and sometimes I would like people to see that I might not be the strong person they perceive and that I can feel hurt and in pain, though I do not say it. But I really do not know how to do it without them taking pity on me.  It is all a mind game 

What is my greatest achievement in work?

LOL, I do not think I have achieved something so important to highlight and call my greatest achievement. 

In terms of work, I am very proud to have got great funding in my early career years, rather than just working with contracts. That struggle gave me an excellent idea of how difficult is to work in science, and how things really are for Principal Investigators and higher positions in research. Many of the people who are now in those positions have never experienced what it is to look for money to fund their research so they have a very different attitude, more chaotic when carrying out their projects.  

But I believe my greatest achievement is still to come …

Where would I most like to live?

I was raised in a town and at the moment I am living in another one. However, I am a city dweller. I have lived in great cities such as Madrid, Amsterdam, Singapore, and Yokohama. I could go and live in some of them again, however, my dream is to live as close to the sea as possible, preferably around the Mediterranean Sea, so Barcelona, or even Athens, is top on my list 😉

What is my most treasured possession?

I do not care too much about material things but I adore and could not make it without all these crazy friends I have met in different parts of the planet. Without you and those moments that we lived together, I would not be like I am now. So … wait for me, I will show up and make a mess wherever you are. 

What is my most marked characteristic?

Without any doubt my rebelliousness and madness. I am a dreamer and none can stop me  😉 

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

I do not have anything that I would call my city, since I feel much like a nomad. But any museum or even a library will make it. There is something about books that I always find very inspiring. A nice stationery shop will also give me this inspiration: colors, papers, pens, you name it.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?

There is a little cafe in Amsterdam that always loved, Cafe de Jaren. The food was nice and the setting was perfect. A nice sandwich with goat cheese, honey, and nuts together with my beer, and then the canals and people-watching. It was a place where I felt good. 

But you can also find me eating Laksa in one of the hawker centers in Singapore. Different experiences but equally special.

What books influenced my life and how?

“La casa de los espiritus” by Isabel Allende and “La casa de Bernarda Alba” by Federico Garcia Lorca. These books have influenced my life by providing insights into the dangers of societal expectations and repressed desires by celebrating the strength of women and exploring the complexities of family relationships. 

“The Magus” by John Fowles opened my mind to question my own perceptions of reality and to consider alternative viewpoints. Often we just see life from our own perspective, but things are not so simple and there will always be different angles to the same story. Human relationships are complex and we should always reflect on our own experiences and beliefs but consider at the same time that they might be influenced by our own biases and assumptions.  Our perception of reality is only one part of the equation, there is always much more to it. 

“La Sombra del Viento” by Carlos Ruiz Zafron taught me that there are always too many books that can enrich our life. It shows you as well how to cope with loss and grief when you are struggling and develop your own coping strategies. It also inspired me to be open-minded to different forms of love, romantic, familial, and even platonic love, and to look for meaningful connections with important people in my life. 

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

Ooooppppssss!! That’s a difficult one. I love U2, Cure, Depeche Mode, and REM but I guess if I going to disappear from here at least for a while I will be listening to Tracy Chapman, especially the song called Baby Can I hold you tonight with Pavarotti. I have heard this song countless times at certain periods of time in my life and it has an enormous emotional value for me. Another song that will fit the purpose of my last day would be one that reminds me of someone I lost and I would lose now forever, Por que te vas by Jeanette. But why are we talking about the last day? I have no intention of saying goodbye … yet!

I guess I would also listen to Among Us or Ghostbuster, so my kid will always keep me in his memories as the dancing queen.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

I am completely in love with the character of Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale. Her courage and her own form of rebellion against a Society that has stripped her of any rights for the simple fact of being fertile have captivated my soul. She will keep going even in the face of extreme situations involving torture and death to fight for dreams of a better life. This spark of rebellion makes me root for her and gives me the boldness to fight my own battles … though luckily I am not at risk of torture or death 😉

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

Anna Frank was my heroine since my early years. Despite the constant fear and uncertainty surrounding her life, she remained optimistic and hopeful. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of standing up and speaking out against injustice, prejudice, and discrimination and fighting for a better tomorrow. Believe it or not, I used to stay around Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam but never went inside. She has been converted into a tourist attraction and that’s not the way I want to think about her. 

Nadia Comaneci and Daniela Silivas are also my stars. Their dedication and love for gymnastics and how they overcame all the obstacles to achieve their dreams is very inspiring. 

And not to make it exclusively women list, I will add Federer and Nadal. Their longstanding rivalry on the court, sportsmanship, professionalism, and respect for their opponents and the game, is memorable. I admire as well their continuous fight for the most difficult ball without giving up and their graciousness in both victory and defeat. Fight until the end, but accept a loss or a failure should be included in all the manuals for how to live your life without being a pain.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime?

Haha, due to my circumstances, I would recommend everyone to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It is a hilarious comedy that will have you laughing from start to finish. But at the same time, it explores the complexities of family dynamics, the challenges of finding love, and the challenges and joys of navigating different cultural traditions and expectations, while staying true to oneself. I watched it with a friend the night before I flew to Greece for the first time. Back at that time, I did not foresee how much I would identify myself with Ian Miller. I still keep trying to navigate Greek society’s intricacies and find my place in it. It has been a bit of trial and error adventure but I think Greece should consider me for honorary citizenship. 

What role play stories in my life and work?

They are the bones of both my work and my life. I could not conceive either of them without the power of stories. At work, I try to break down scientific messages and convert them into beautiful stories that broader audiences can understand. 

And I have lived my life always as stories, some of them happy some others not so much but I translate all my experiences into stories either to enjoy and cherish them or to learn from their mistakes in them. 

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me?

This means a lot of responsibility. I strongly believe that we are the ones delineating our own destiny and how we live our lives. But I might be wrong. You might have some clear ideas about how you want your life to be, but there might be external factors that make you alter the course of it. After all, we are not isolated from the rest of the world, and sometimes because of our cowardliness and/or societal impositions, we need to change very fast and at times not very successful into the next chapter in our life. 

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

It might sound sad but ME! I always have many people supporting me. But sometimes I have taken decisions that not everybody around me approved back at that time. It felt a bit disheartening but with my usual stubbornness, I will do things even if my loved ones do not see it. It doesn’t mean my decision was correct but I definitely do not need a fan cheering me up continuously.

I used to have someone I blindly relied on, the same crazy wavelength as me, until … this person was not there anymore, and had to learn to keep fighting my battles alone.  It hurt but I stood up and kept moving, so  I am unstoppable. 

My parents and my partner will always and unconditionally support me, even though more often than not, they do not understand “my way of thinking”. I know they are there, and this is invaluable in my life.

Which people or companies would I like to work with?

Mesa Schumacher 

Kalliopi Monoyios

Maja Divjak

Martina Maritan

Ronnie Amaro

Joel Dubin 

Jen Christiansen

Amanda Montañez

Or someone from Scientific American or National Geography, I am not so picky 😉

What project am I looking forward to work on?

I will make my point again. I would do whatever to work on an infographic for National Geographic or Scientific American, What? this girl has big dreams, is something wrong with that? I am pretty sure I would learn a lot.

It might not happen this year but I am going to keep working and learning new things and who knows maybe one day I fulfill my dream and can say I got the greatest achievement in my work. 

Lately, I am thinking a lot about how to push forward the field of STEAM, yes the A for Art is very important. It is not a new term but I would like to see more initiatives coming in this front. I am dreaming of a platform/association where people interested in Art and Science, independently of their background can find their voices. It should be a place to encourage creativity and innovation by fostering collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches. In this hypothetical space, scientists can find resources to embrace creativity, and where artists can learn how science works, and in this way each of them to be influenced by the other. Why an established scientist should not try to create sculptures? We have not been trained to do anything outside our work, but looking at a piece of clay and how to create something in 3D can broaden your ideas and perspectives and maybe you can come up with innovative solutions for your project. And the same way for artists, why should not you learn about Avogadro number or density? maybe it helps you to create your own materials and mixtures. I do not understand why these two fields should keep separated in the 21st Century. Look at History to see how entangled they have always been. 

Where can you see me or my work?

I have a webpage that I struggle to maintain alive:

I am trying to be very active on LinkedIn, though sometimes I feel like hiding behind my screen and not letting anyone see me. I find it hard to be exposed but I did not set the rules of how my business currently works, so I am not fighting this battle and just following the flow. 

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

It is a phrase I resonate strongly with. I feel old age is catching up with me but I keep fighting to pursue my passions and interests without letting any limitations stop me from what I love the most. These passions or dreams, as I call them, are an essential part of who I am and encourage me to stay true to myself and keep going following the most important things in my life. 

Which creative professionals should Peter invite to tell their story?

Mesa Schumacher 

Kalliopi Monoyios

Maja Divjak

Martina Maritan

Ronnie Amaro

Ana Rojas

How can you contact me?

You can always send me an email at

I love chatting and hearing fantastic stories of people who want to make a change in their lives because they think they do not fit in their current circumstances. You are not alone, many of us are struggling and if I can help anyone to feel a member of this crowd, I am in. 

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