President ACUP & Rector of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)
Born in Tarragona in 1956, María José Figueras Salvat graduated from the University of Barcelona in 1979 and was awarded her doctorate by the same university in 1986. She specialised in electron microscopy at the University of Groningen (Holland) and became a member of the teaching staff at the University of Barcelona in 1979.She has spent her entire teaching and research career at the Unit of Biology and Microbiology of the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she became a tenured lecturer in 1988 and professor of Microbiology in 2001. She has been one of the driving forces behind education in biology and microbiology at the URV, and she has helped to improve the methodology of her subject.
Dr Figueras is a specialist in environmental microbiology and particularly in the microbiological pollution of water. In this area she has initiated and taken part in a variety of international projects, among which are Aqua-Chip, Epibathe, Healthy Water and Aquavalens. She has also studied the taxonomy and epidemiology of little known bacteria such as those in the genera Aeromonas and Arcobacter, which include species that can cause infections in people and animals. She has reported several clinical cases and 25 new species of bacteria that had previously been unknown to science.
Her main scientific contributions can be found in more than 170 indexed publications, five books, nine book chapters and more than 200 presentations at international conferences. She has been awarded six 5-year teaching premiums and six 6-year research premiums, and she has supervised 10 doctoral theses. In 2012 she was awarded a prize for the quality of her research, the impact of which is above the world average in the field of microbiology.
She has been scientific advisor for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment programme, the European Commission and the Catalan Water Agency of the Catalan Government on issues of the microbiological pollution of water. In this field, numerous transfer contracts were signed with the Bosch Gimpera, Abelló Pascual and URV foundations between 1990 and 2010.
She is a member of the board of directors of the Spanish Microbiology Society. In terms of managerial responsibilities, she was secretary of Division VII of the University of Barcelona in Tarragona (1989-1992) and director of the URV’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences (2013-2018).
She is mother to a daughter and a son, and ambassador of the American Society for Microbiology Society in Spain (2015-2018).