I don't take offense when people say that my lab is the symbol of the inequity system of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. As a lab researcher who has received a fellowship twice, one year here, and one year abroad, I am aware of the bad treatment I receive from a mainly Puerto Rican department which is not interested in professional research, yet is always looking for an excuse to close my lab! But this is an important question for researchers everywhere.
After the L'artista Virus outbreak, the laboratory I designed and directed was closed and transported to a hospital located on the other side of the University. I was penalized for the loss of time. My lab graduate students suffered too, and I had to decide on how I would divide the time I would spend with them and how I would spend the days I wouldn't have a lab. I do not consider the remedy that was given, to offer one month to two months of free labor for my lab. My graduate students give me the name of the things we could have done with this time -- actually, that's enough. We analyzed the model running on computers and gained all this knowledge to use for another laboratory, the L'artista - lab which focuses on finding the first and the most important points for understanding the live L'artista virus's genetic sequence, which would allow us to understand the virus' genome. Today, we are a research lab which is helping researchers analyze the protein quality of the genome of L'artista virus. But that's not my lab. I have already taken measures to maintain my lab's reputation; it doesn't matter how many people ask me to stay in Puerto Rico, I'm still in Puerto Rico!
I might have two or three weeks left on my grant for Europe, and I have no reason to find a laboratory like mine one month, two months, or three months, because the standard operating procedures will not be maintained. For example, we sometimes don't have the confidence to continue certain sensitive analyses until I find a new lab. But if I have to leave my lab, I have to consider if I will be able to send the surveys, read the results, or manipulate the samples into a best model. Furthermore, if I could not find a laboratory that could continue my lab's research -- if I have to move myself, I would have to resign. It doesn't make sense that I have a laboratory (an expensive one at that) located in an area of the University not completely within reach of my junior lab members, but that I have to finish our experiments on my cell phone, and that we are no longer able to collaborate in other countries. On one hand, I know that after the lab is relocated, I won't be able to keep up the tradition of collaborating with European labs. In one word, this appears to be a power play by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, but that's not the point. The University needs to collaborate in a professional way with its researchers. When researchers, however, are dissuaded from sharing their knowledge of a disease they studied, one must wonder about the value of the information they have to work. As a lab researcher, I cannot work with many samples because of the safety measures that come with using small quantities of small bios, the possibility of accidents which arise from this methodology. If I close my lab, it is for professional reasons, I do not accept that they have to be closed by the same reasons.
Currently, my lab is working on projects that involve genetic sequences of soil salmonella, Gringobacterium zabrisae, and Vibrio vulnificus. However, we have only one female graduate student in our lab. Of course, there are many female graduates, and one day it would be a good idea to have female researchers in our lab. I have made this suggestion in the past, but I have never been able to convince university officials of this. However, our female microbiology professor could use the time she has to organize science congresses in Mayagüez for young female researchers. Now this is my right -- and I have already suffered that part of the injustice for three years, and how sad this proves it is for the Republic of Puerto Rico.