Pas García: Fighting gender bias at the speed of light

Pas García at her office in the Faculty of Physics at the University of Valencia
Pas García at her office in the Faculty of Physics at the University of Valencia. / Photo: Lautaro Iglesias
Pas García Martínez Full Professor of Physics at the University of Valencia and protagonist in «Science spaces» in Metode.

My name is Pascuala García Martínez, but everyone calls me Pas. I am a full professor in the Faculty of Physics and part of the Physical Optics Teaching Unit of the Department of Optics and Optometry and Vision Sciences. People often think that optics is just about glasses, but in fact it is the part of physics that studies the laws and phenomena of light using lasers, quantum optics, vision, optoelectronics, etc. In particular, I study the diffraction and polarisation of light. For some years now, I have been working on the implementation of optical systems to perform various operations. When you use light, you get processes at the speed of light, so everything goes much faster than when you use electronics. Then, over the years, I moved on to studying liquid crystal displays and their application to diffraction and polarisation. We see these devices every day because we have them in our monitors, mobile phones, tablets, etc.

I think we have a responsibility to try to make our research useful for the well-being of society. In this sense, we have found applications for our research in dermatology, because we have observed that melanoma and other dermatological pathologies can be better detected depending on the polarisation of the light used to examine the skin of patients. In other words, you can see things that you would not see otherwise. And this is very important for a correct diagnosis.

Another aspect that takes up a lot of my time is working to get more women into science and technology. I have always been the only woman in my research group and I have often felt very isolated, to the point where I wondered if I was not a good fit in the research world. Then I realised that the problem was not with me, but with the way we have socialised research. I joined the Association of Women Researchers and Technologists (AMIT) in 2002, I loved it and I understood that I had to devote some of my time to it if we wanted to change the figures. In physics, women make up about 20-22% of researchers. Over the last twenty years, I have been involved and trained in gender issues, I have met people and I have grown and taken responsibility in this area. And I have met many women who have been references in my life: Capitolina Díaz, Pilar López Sancho or María Josefa Yzuel, among many others.

I have also always been part of the Equality Policy Commission of the University of Valencia, I am the chair of the Equality Commission of the Faculty of Physics until 2022, and since 2018 I have been the president of the Specialised Group ’Women in Physics’ of the Spanish Royal Physics Society. We have a lot of work to do in our discipline because there are very few women. Making these figures visible is a gender perspective, but we also need to study the impact of gender on research. There is a lot to say about this in physics. For example, now that I am working with medical professionals, I have seen that a woman going for a skin treatment does not have the same experience as a man. This has to be taken into account: the gender perspective is very important in research.

This article was originally published in Mètode , the science journal of the University of Valencia.