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March Research Spotlight on Pablo Sobrado, Ph.D.

Pablo SobradoTell us about your current career position.
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech. I have the privilege of teaching undergraduate and graduate students while conducting research in the area of enzyme structure and function. My research focuses on enzymes that play important roles in the pathogenesis of parasites and fungi.

What are the key experiences and decisions you made that have helped you reach your current position?
The most important decision was to change my major in college. I initially was a Business major, but after my sophomore year, I realized that I liked Biochemistry and Chemistry better and decided to change. I performed undergraduate research and I really enjoyed being in the lab. Applying the scientific method was a real joy - and getting the results that supported my hypothesis was a real rush! 

How did you first become interested in science?
I was always interested in science. However, in high school I had a very good Biology teacher that introduced me to Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. He required the students to build a DNA molecule and to learn the entire glycolytic pathway. I remember being fascinated by the atomic detail at which some enzymatic reactions were understood. 

Were there times when you failed at something you felt was critical to your path?  If so, how did you regroup and get back on track?
I had a hard time adjusting to graduate school. I had graduated from a liberal arts college and did not have the advanced mathematics or the biochemistry that many of my classmates had. I simply had to work harder than the others.

What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?
Think hard about the future and set a career goal. Work with passion and pride. It is important to understand that by having high aspirations and commitment, great opportunities will be presented to you. Work with the understanding that in order to succeed, it should be your career, not simply a job! 

What are your hobbies?
I really don’t have hobbies. Weekends involve traveling to my daughters’ dance and sporting events. This keeps me really busy. 

What was the last book you read?
365 Ways to Say I Love You to Your Kids by Jay K. Payleitner. 

What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science every day?
It is very satisfying to see how the research progresses from an idea, to preliminary data for a grant proposal, to a novel structure, mechanism, and the identification of inhibitors that could be developed into a drug. 

To learn more about Dr. Sobrado, go to www.fralin.vt.edu/affiliated-faculty/pablo-sobrado