A native of the sunny coasts of Puerto Rico, Roberto grew up in one of the best surfing spots on the island, Isabela. He earned his bachelor’s in biomedical sciences from The University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla. Not long after, he completed his post-baccalaureate at The Ohio State University in Maize molecular genetics. His fascination with viruses led him to earn his Ph.D. at The University of Toledo, working on the Cauliflower mosaic virus. When not in the lab, Roberto enjoys spending time with his wife Francesca, and his dog Luna and attempting to play the guitar.
What was one of the low points or challenges in your scientific journey, and what helped you? What advice do you have for others?
The biggest challenge I faced was my process of getting accepted into graduate school. What helped me was taking advantage and participating in post-bac programs designed explicitly for increasing the diversity and inclusion of URMs in STEM. There are many of these programs, such as NIH-PREP or NSF-funded programs like SiGuE (Success in Graduate Education), which is the one I attended and had a great support system.
What is something about science or your current work that you find fascinating or motivating?
I find my current work extremely fascinating! What if I told you that a neuroinvasive virus like Herpes simplex can influence behavior, would you believe me? Well, my project is looking in-depth at a discovery from the lab in which an asymptomatic neonatal infection of Herpes can cause an anxiety-like behavior as a long-term effect.