NEW BRUNSWICK — This Valentine’s Day, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello and Martin Blaser will likely be at home doing what they do most nights.
She’ll make the soup. He’ll put together the salad. They’ll spend time on their laptops, writing and editing research papers, thinking about their most recent discoveries and feeling lucky that they found each other.
“I was lucky to marry someone as wonderful as Gloria,” says Blaser, the director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and professor of medicine and microbiology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“There’s a lot of respect and love between us,” says Dominguez-Bello, director of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, the Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and in the Department of Anthropology at the School of Arts and Sciences.
The couple, who investigate the microbiome – the massive collection of bodily bacteria that regulate our health – will celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary next month. Both had been married before and started dating a decade after they first met, commuting from 2008-2012 whenever they could between San Juan, Puerto Rico where Dominguez-Bello worked as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico to New York where Blaser was teaching at New York University.
“I didn’t remember that this woman was so beautiful,” Blaser remembers thinking when their paths crossed again in 2008 at a scientific meeting. “Then I realized how intelligent and how nice she was and what a good character she had.”
Blaser, the author of the 2014 award-winning "Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues" and named among the “100 most influential people in the world” by Time in 2015, was already prominent in his field when they started dating. Dominguez-Bello liked that he wasn’t a show-off. “I liked his sweetness, his warmth,” she says. “I knew he was handsome and intelligent but was attracted by his modesty and sense of humor.”
By 2012, Dominguez-Bello says the two of them realized “we weren’t getting any younger,” and the long-distance relationship needed to end. So, she got a job at NYU and moved to New York.
Shortly afterwards, Blaser’s father was widowed and the two spent the next six years caring for him until he died at nearly 101.
“If I wasn’t in love with Gloria before, I would have fallen in love with her again because she was so kind to my dad,” says Blaser. “My dad loved me very much but there is no question that Gloria stole his heart.”
The duo has been at Rutgers, she since January 2018, and he since January 2019. They oversee their own labs and most of the time publish separately but collaborate on some projects. She is a microbiologist and researches the microbiomes of babies, examining the effects of cesarean section and effect of urbanization on the microbiome of people, and he, a physician and microbiologist, focuses on the overuse of antibiotics and disease.
They think they complement each other at work and in life. She likes order. He punctuality.
“Marty is very aware of time and space, and has a high pace in doing things,” she says. “I am more laid back but like when things are in place.”
Coming to Rutgers was a good move for both. They commute to work each morning together, sometimes go to the gym together after work.
“Our work-days are so full,” says Blaser. “Sometimes we go home for the weekend, don’t see other people and just spend the time together.”