February 2012

Research Spotlight: Alberto I. Roca

What was the last book you read? 

“Consulting for Dummies,” since research training does not teach self-sufficiency outside of academic settings. I plan to create my own nonprofit in the near future.  

Do you have any heroes, heroines or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?  

From my personal life, my parents are my role models. They are dedicated to each other and their family. My parents arrived to the U.S. with little money, but their education from Peru led to successful careers. My papa likes to say that no one cares where he went to medical school. With three boys, my mami stayed home taking care of us but took leadership positions in school and neighborhood volunteer activities. So I learned the value of hard work, family bonds and community engagement.

From my professional realm, I hold in high regard Professor Gisela Mosig, who was a recombination geneticist. Her career is chronicled in a Genetics “Perspectives” article (2) so I only highlight what I learned from her. She challenged dogma, beginning with her high-school biology classes in communist East Germany that were politicized with the imposed teachings of Lysenko. She was also a humble scientist who took very seriously the mentoring of her own students and other young scholars. SACNAS teaches us to respect the sacrifices of our elder science predecessors. I am heartened when I also find role models in my recombination community to emulate.  

What is it that keeps you going? 

I live for building communities and correcting social injustice. My passion is mentoring people to achieve their potential, and this drives my diversity work. In science, I still maintain a bioinformatics project to satisfy my curiosity about proteins. Remaining active in research legitimizes my advice to students and postdocs about how to conduct academic life.

1. D. Hernandez, Social Science: Experimenting with Social Media to Build Scholarship Communities, DiverseScholar 2:4 (2011)
2. N.G. Nossal, J.L. Franklin, E. Kutter, J.W. Drake, Genetics 168: 1097–1104 (2004)

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