However, as usual in many scientific stories, there is much more behind these phrases that outline the main idea of our paper.
It all began with the ideas and efforts of Dr. Natalia Martínez to understand the implications of a phosphorylation hotspot in Spry2 (serine residue 112), which she first detected to be phosphorylated by the protein kinase p38MAPK (unpublished results). Later, other groups found that it was also a target of MNK1/MNK2, and subsequently – perhaps by serendipity – Natalia and coworkers determined that fundamentally serine 112 corresponded to a consensus PKD phosphorylation motif.
Natalia's scientific activity focused on basic research, a concept that Abraham Flexner (director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, 1930-1939) defined in his essay “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” as pathbreaking research that leads to new tools and techniques, often initiated at unpredictable and indirect ways as a useless form of activity. Flexner argued that the vast majority of great discoverers were motivated not by a desire to be useful, but by the satisfaction of curiosity, and that this kind of research provides greater satisfaction than it would otherwise be obtained. Decades later, philosopher Nuccio Ordine proposed a similar thesis in his book “The Usefulness of the Useless” (“L'utilità dell'inutile”), which included Flexner's essay. As the center of his reflections, Ordine places the idea of utility of certain knowledge (such as humanistic knowledge or that obtained through basic research) whose essential value is completely alien to any utilitarian or commercial purpose.
For many years, Natalia worked hard to understand the physiological role of Spry2 phosphorylation by PKD. Finding the answer took a long time: regulation of its stability through the PKD/COP9 complex. However, she could not enjoy the pleasure of that discovery, as a metastatic melanoma took her away from us.
Natalia Martínez was a Doctor of Science from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and a staff scientist at the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII). Red-haired, progressive, kind woman, defender of animal rights, fighter against social inequalities and injustices and, especially, a person of great curiosity for all aspects of cellular and molecular biology. A young researcher, whose example of perseverance will always remain with us, because according to the classics, no one is dead as long as they are remembered.
Saul Bellow said that “the value of a human life is not measured by the triumphs achieved, by the power attained, nor by the wealth accumulated, but by the dignity of how it has been lived”. Dr. Natalia Martínez is a paradigm of dignity for us. For all these reasons, we dedicate this article to the memory of Dr. Natalia Martínez.