Gold medal for oceanographer

Recently the Catalan government announced the latest winners of the Gold Medal distinction, its highest award. One of them is Josefina Castellví (1935) who is recognized for her ‘outstanding career as an oceanographer, biologist, researcher, and a writer’ as well as the fact that with her example she has opened up the way for many scientific women.

Josefina Castellví spearheaded the Spanish Antarctic Program – indeed, Castellvi Peak on Antarctica’s Livingstone Island is named after her. Furthermore she has published over 70 scientific papers and participated in more than 30 oceanographic campaigns, among other activities.

In other words, she is a very prolific woman scientist working in an interesting field: marine bacteriology.

‘Catalonia in Venice’

Architect Olga Subirós is the curator of the exhibiton Catalonia in Venice – air/aria/aire, a Collateral Event of the Biennale Architettura 2021, that is held from May 22 to November 21, 2021.

‘The project reflects upon the central theme of the Biennale, How will we live together?, with an investigation into air as a common asset upon which our survival depends, as pollution as ‘the invisible killer’.

Olga Subirós, who also designed the architecture of the exhibition space, offers a large-format, immersive experience that brings visitors closer to three aspects of air pollution (…).’

You will find more information, some of it rather shocking, as well as illustrations (‘Cartographic Evidence’) on the website air / aria / aire.

Source and photo: Institut Ramon Llull, organizer and producer of the Catalan exhibition.

How women rocked the foundations of universities

Just as in most European countries, Catalan women had to fight their way into university. However, the possibilities in which women could shape their lives were clearly determined by the course of Spanish history.

The first students
In the beginning women entered university by enrolling in medical studies; later on they chose exact sciences. The first woman ever to set foot in a Catalan university classroom was Elena Maseras who enrolled in the Medicine Faculty of the University of Barcelona in 1872 (see pictures below). Allegedly she was applauded when she made her appearance in the lecture room. Some six years later she finished her studies and requested to be examined in order to obtain her degree.

This seemingly simple petition threw the bureaucratic organs of the university into a state of great confusion. It took them three years to sort things out and in February 1889 she finally got permission to present herself at the exams where she obtained the qualification ‘excellent’. Nevertheless, these obstacles had disheartened her, and she decided not to continue her medical studies and gave up her aspirations of becoming a doctor. During the three years of bureaucratic silence she had followed a teacher training and worked in this capacity in secondary institutions till her death.

The fact that a woman was studying at university raised a whole range of issues, as this phenomena rocked moral principles of a society that was not prepared to let men and women share the same classsroom. Also ideologic and economic principles were at stake, or so it was believed, when reality sank in: studying women not only wanted to acquire knowledge, but they also intended to exercize a profession.

About insults and what followed

Carlota Dobaño, researcher of malaria immunology


Malaria is a fatal disease, especially in Subsaharan African, while approximately half of the world population lives at risk of contracting it. In the research aiming to eliminate this disease Carlota Dobaño as Associate Research Professor plays an important role as head of the Malaria Immunology Group at ISGlobal (Institute for Global Health) in Barcelona, where teams study infectious diseases as well as non-communicable diseases and environment.††

One of Carlota’s main research projects is trying to understand how the most advanced malaria vaccine works, as the mode of action is still not known. It has been established that after vaccination some individuals are protected and others not; nor is it clear what causes this different response and why the vaccine is effective during a short period only.

Carlota coordinates large multicenter studies that study naturally acquired and experimentally immunity malaria at ISGlobal, combining this with her research work at the Manhiça Health Research Centre, Mozambique.

Her interest for infectious deseases and malaria in particular has guided her through her studies at the Universitat de Barcelona and also when she completed her MSc in London and obtained her PhD degree in Scotland. In Blantyre, Malawi she conducted research work at the Malaria Project and Wellcome Trust Centre.

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