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Benito Gomez
Benito Gomez

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 (

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 die.

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.

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Editor: Brian Day
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated:June, 2006
Students Contact: Jennifer Heldmann
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe