Biochemist, Universidad de Antofagasta
Director Instituto del Desierto
Who I Am and What I Do
My name is Benito Gomez. I am a Biochemist working at Universidad de
Antofagasta since 1987. My university activities include teaching Biochemistry
courses to undergraduate and graduate students and my research deals
with microbial life at the Atacama Desert. I also have some administrative
work as director of our Instituto del Desierto (www.uantof.cl/indes).
My areas of expertise
Isolation and biochemical characterization of photosynthetic microorganisms
and microbial communities.
How I first became interested in this profession
I remember that Biology attracted me since childhood; later during my
high school years I became also interested in Chemistry. Then, when
I had to decide what to study at the university I discovered Biochemistry,
a combination of the two disciplines I liked. In parallel, I was very
much attracted to those images from movies and from my science fiction
readings, of scientists wearing white coats working with test tubes
in laboratories. So, I decided to study Biochemistry.
My education and training
I did my elementary, high school and university studies in Santiago
on the educational public system of Chile. I studied Biochemistry at
Universidad de Chile in Santiago. After that I went to the US to obtain
my Ph.D. degree in Photobiology at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.
What I like about my job
Several aspects: working on research subjects that are totally or partially
unknown; asking questing about natural phenomena; looking at biological
problems at a molecular scale; be in contact with intelligent people;
to travel abroad; teaching science to young people; be intellectually
challenged; looking for potentially useful ideas and results.
What I don't like about my job
Several aspects: administrative paperwork; university bureaucracy; to
be almost always short of research funds; too many hours of teaching;
hard to disconnect mentally from work during vacations; to publish or
My advice to anyone interested in this occupation
Try to obtain as much as possible from your basic science courses; keep
constantly asking about the “why, how, when, where” during
your formal training and later in your work; be prepared to be constantly
trying to be updated on the scientific discipline of choice.