November 2017 Spotlight: Michael Alberto Gomez
CLEAR Member? Since September 2017
What do you do? I use the CRISPR technology to genetically engineer disease resistance in major crops, such as cassava, tomato, and cacao.
What was your favorite class ever and why? Music history class: The Beatles…because The Beatles!
Who was your favorite teacher ever and why? Asim Dasgupta (UCLA) because he introduced me to the fascinating world of viruses, and taught me life lessons for finding inner peace, happiness, and strength.
Describe one experience growing up which influenced the way you became interested in science. On New Years Eve in Colombia, my brothers and I had a serious bout with a pathogen we picked up in the Amazon. Spending New Years Day in the hospital was no fun for any of us. In pursuit of revenge, I studied our enemy. I wanted to know its strengths and weakness, ins and outs, weapons and defenses. I grew fascinated by the many ways pathogens infect and manipulate their hosts. With a little vengeance still burning inside me, I’m excited about turning the tables on pathogens and coming out on top.
How many labs have you worked in? I have worked in four labs that focused on host-pathogen interactions. I have studied bacteria and viruses that threaten the lives of humans and plants. And I have taken glee in every step toward understanding how they work and how to fight them off.
What do you hope to do after you leave grad school? I hope to continue researching and teaching. I’m on a roll in my field of genetic engineering and disease. And, I feel so thrilled every time I sense that light bulb flash above student heads.
Why did you join CLEAR? CLEAR has been an amazing platform to develop my communication with the general public about genetic engineering, and make exciting connections with fellow scientists. Genetic engineering is going to play an immense role in the lives of future generations. It is crucial that they understand what it is and how it can be used.
How do you prefer to spend your time outside of the lab? Krav Maga self-defense training.
What do you wish you had known about grad school before you started? I wish I knew to have more patience and compassion with shortcomings, and not to over-water the plants.
What has been your favorite outreach activity or experience? Talking to high school students about ethical considerations of genetic engineering . I love to hear new and interesting perspectives. As the class hears these perspectives, I hope it guides them to make compassionate and responsible choices for the direction of CRISPR.