Tell me about yourself. How did you first become interested in science?
Believe it or not I happened to be
watching Discovery Channel, back when they actually showed science, when I was
around eight or nine years old and they had a few shows on virology and marine
I told my mom I wanted to be a
marine biologist (the only person I could remember) and find a way for people
to live and breathe underwater by looking at whales and fish (I think I mentioned
I was eight). After that, she took me to science
museums at Balboa Park in San Diego almost every weekend and later when they
would get new exhibits.
Why did you pick your program at UT Health Science Center?
Because I really didn’t want to
stay in Albuquerque, but also because I saw that they had a principal investigators (P.I.’s ) in the Cell & Molecular Medicine track (now called the Cell Biology, Genetics, & Molecular Medicine discipline) whose central focus was aging and diseases related to
aging. It made it easier so I wasn’t sifting through tons of professors and
seeing if I could loosely apply aging to whatever the real topic was.
Tell me about your research. Why are you interested in your research
topic? Why is it important?
My research focuses on how
mitochondrial function leads to the onset of sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal
muscle with age. I’m really into this, because A) we use worms in Dr. Alfred Fisher’s lab which are the
coolest model I’ve worked with and B) I’ve been interested in mitochondria
since I learned about the endosymbiosis events that gave’em to us. Selfishly I
want to live like, a ridiculously long amount of time.
The reason this is important is
because of all the harmful effects of losing our skeletal muscle. It starts at
around 55 years old and we lose about one to two percent per year. You get older, you
lose that strength, you’re more prone to falls and the next thing you know you
need a life alert, a walker or wheelchair, and a full time nurse; worst case
scenario you need constant care in a nursing home.
Actually it gets a bit worse than
that, sarcopenia causes an increased risk of diabetes, since you lost one of the
major organs responsible for glucose uptake. Diabetes can in turn exacerbate
the loss of muscle, making it even worse.
I know you are a member of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program. What is this program? Why
do you like being part of it?
Who told you?! Well it’s a program
for entering minority students that funds us for our first year of graduate
school and provides resources for career development to increase the amount of diverse
people in science.
I like it because it’s easier to meet people coming in when
you’re forced to have meetings with them every week and I’ve gotten some really
good friends from it.
How has being part of the IMSD program enriched your graduate school
Friends and such.
Besides school, what do you like to do for fun?
I do like cooking, though I didn’t
do a lot of it until me and a few friends met every once and awhile and made
meals. Then I realized I needed to get my life together.
Other than that, I am a big movie
guy so I go to the cinemas all the time and play A LOT of video games. I really
like seeing or playing through narratives, games let me feel more involved and
sometimes give me ideas for science. I’m also really into Greek mythology so I
read a lot of books on that when I’m not reading other things.
This article is part of the “Meet The Researcher” series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.