Marcos Manero-Carranza

PhD candidate at the D-BSSE, ETH Zurich

More Connected Than We Think

After just a few days I can already feel the effect that Bridging Horizons has had on me and the way I perceive reality. It all happened so fast. Just a week ago I was on the train, on my way to Ticino, analyzing some microscope images that I had just received. Looking through the window, I gawked at the sun's rays breaking through the clouds over Lake Lucerne. The scene looked like something out of reality. Perhaps it was a sign of what waited for us in Ascona. For a week, we left the bubble that is our laboratory to enter a new, strange and exciting world governed by the arts; where literature, philosophy, surrealism, gastronomy and music coexist and nourish each other to give rise to the magical place that is Monte Veritá.

For what purpose? We did not have a clear idea either. Bringing together a group of scientists and writers to find common language and build something together seemed too abstract. For a personality like mine who wants to have everything planned in advance (I guess a side effect of working in the lab) not understanding what they wanted from us and how we were going to achieve it sounded rather overwhelming. However, as the days passed by, I understood that there was a clear purpose: to foster the perfect environment environment to exchange ideas, favor creativity, debates and limitless curiosity. And we fell into it.

It has been an amazing week of getting to know each other and ourselves. Of getting to know which places makes us feel comfortable and favour our creative and curious spirit; of jumping out of our comfort zone and exploring other unknown fields, other realities. Summarizing and reflecting on everything that happened in such a short space is a titanic task, but perhaps our meeting at the Eranos Foundation can give you a glimpse of how it felt. There, surrounded by nature, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, we participated in an open debate on ethics, conscience, perception and reality with Giorgio Vallortigara. The fact that it took place in this historic meeting place for thinkers, scientists and artists for already more than 70 years, made the meeting even more meaningful. And this was only the beginning. Talks, recitals, concerts and debates continued for several days once the literary event began.

Every day, we would go to bed in the wee hours of the morning, after commenting and analyzing the talks and debates we had seen in their context to then jump into literature, philosophy, science, health...and connecting everything… any topic would go on for hours until we could not stand it any longer and the sleep won the battle. Just a few hours served as a pause to this frenzy, as the birds singing and the sunlight filtering through the windows in the morning indicated that we had to return to this, sometimes exhausting, new reality.

We have been immersed in the most creative and surreal environment you could imagine. Where mycologists connect the microscopic world of fungi with the macroscopic reality of cities and societies, where musicians change our prejudices and teach us that with a harp you can compose electronic music. We have listened to a solemn narration of the absurd Dadaist manifesto until we fall into its provocation and burst out laughing, probably as those who heard it live more than a hundred years ago did once.

And in the midst of all this, we have tried to find our place here. It is not easy to feel at home when you attend an event in a completely foreign field, full of experts and in a language you don't speak. In the end, I have come to understand that it is in this kind of situation, when you get out of your comfort bubble, that you really learn how to deal with reality, when you feed on what others have to offer. You learn to talk less and listen more. You take notes on what you see around you, you sort out your thoughts, you share ideas. It has been the perfect place to let our creativity run wild and it has certainly brought about a change in the way I work and see the world, which I am already seeing reflected in my day-to-day life both in and out of the lab.

And before we knew it, Sunday arrived. We didn't leave at the same time, but the goodbyes came in dribs and drabs. Our visit to the island of Brisaggio and the Sunday light gave it an even more melancholic feeling. However, I believe that this will not be the end. During the last few days, we met several times to share the desire that this communication between science and literature that we had forged would be more than an ephemeral dialogue and would eventually become something tangible. I do not know what will happen or where we will end up, but we are all excited to maintain these new close friendships and build something together. Something that we are still not quite sure what it is or what form it will take but that will definitely end up showing that the world of science and the arts are more connected and more dependent than we think.


I am Marcos Manero-Carranza, a PhD student in Prof. Randall Platt's group at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich. With a lifelong passion for unraveling the mysteries of life, I pursued my studies in Biotechnology in Spain before embarking on a journey through various research laboratories in Spain, France, the USA, and Switzerland, where I finally settled down to perform a PhD developing novel tools for health research. For some years I have been working directly with cutting-edge methods that are expected to revolutionize medicine, yet little is known outside of the lab of their implications and risks. I see Bridging Horizons as an invaluable opportunity to bridge this gap and bring science to the general public, engaging with amazing people from completely different fields to discuss, debate, and learn from each other. Bringing together the analytical scientific mindset to the creativity of art and literature is a rare opportunity to build exceptional connections and potentially learn science communication, an indispensable skill nowadays that we, as scientists, often tend to forget. I cannot wait to be part of this amazing experience, which I hope is only the beginning of greater collaborations!