Crag News

Paloma Mas, CRAG researcher and vice-director, receives the Narcís Monturiol Medal

The award honours individuals and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the development of science and technology in Catalonia.
Group picture of the Narcís Monturiol awardees (courtesy photo)
Group picture of the Narcís Monturiol awardees (courtesy photo)

Yesterday evening, 4th November 2021, the ceremony for the grant of the Narcís Monturiol awards was held at the Palau de la Generalitat. These awards, instituted by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan Government) in 1982, honour individuals and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the development of science and technology in Catalonia. In this edition, 10 medals have been awarded to personalities –six men and four women– from the scientific field, and a plaque has been awarded to an institution. CSIC research professor and CRAG vice-director, Paloma Mas, is among the recognized personalities.

Paloma Mas’s husband, Thomas Stratmann, received the medal on her behalf from the Minister of Research and Universities, Gemma Geis, in an event in which also intervened the General Director of Research, Joan Gómez Pallarès. In her speech, minister Gemma Geis emphasized the value of research and its transfer to society as the undisputed engine of a country’s progress. “You are the most tangible proof of the scientific talent we have in Catalonia”, she added, addressing the awardees.

“It is a great honour to have been awarded the Narcís Monturiol Medal for research merit. Science and quality scientific research are fundamental pieces for the future of society. Understanding the functioning of the circadian clock in plants, my expertise field, not only implies an advance in the knowledge of the life cycle of plants, but it can also provide us new biotechnological tools to improve crop productivity and sustainability, an issue of extreme urgency in the current context of climate change and the threats it poses to agriculture and food safety worldwide”, says Paloma Mas.

With this recognition, Paloma Mas adds to other CRAG members who received this Medal in the past: Pere Puigdomènech (1992), Pere Arús (2003), Montserrat Pagès (2005), and José Luis Riechmann (2018).

About Paloma Mas

Born in the historical Mediterranean city of Cartagena (Murcia, Spain), Paloma Mas got soon in contact with plant research during her doctoral studies at the CEBAS-CSIC. She conducted her postdoctoral research in California (USA), first at the Scripps Research Institute, studying how plants respond to viral infections, and later on at the Institute for Childhood and Neglected Diseases, studying the circadian rhythms in plants, her primary field of study ever since. In 2004, Paloma Mas moved back to the Mediterranean area, where she has been contributing to our understanding of the molecular basis underlying the circadian rhythms in plants with the research group she leads at CRAG. Seminal studies in her lab include the discovery of the molecular function of a key clock component connecting morning and evening clock activities (Science, 2012). The results overturned the prevailing model formulated back in 2002. Another seminal work from her lab addressed the issue of how the individual cellular clocks are synchronized at the level of the whole plant (Cell, 2015). The study identified the shoot apex as a master clock functioning as the suprachiasmatic nucleus clocks in mammals. A continuation of this study has allowed her lab to identify the actual signal (a small clock protein) responsible for the synchronization of shoots and roots (Nature Plants, 2020). Other important discoveries include the findings showing that the plant circadian clock controls the timing of cell division (Developmental Cell, 2018) and identification of the molecular mechanism by which the plant controls the rhythms of nascent RNAs (The Plant Cell, 2018).