Diversity

This MOSAIC scholar believes in the power of perseverance

Thiago Pasin
By Thiago Pasin
May 16, 2024

Before Wagner Silva Dantas was born, his mother migrated from the impoverished northeast of Brazil to Osasco, a city in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, where she hoped to provide a better life for her two children. Dantas said her perseverance and determination helped shape his world view.

Growing up, Dantas faced hardships and responsibilities beyond his years, often taking on the role of the "man of the house," he said, to care for his younger brother while his single mother worked long hours. Despite their financial difficulties, his mother prioritized her children’s education, instilling in them strong values and morals.

Wagner Silva Dantas
Wagner Silva Dantas

Dantas’ life took a positive turn when he became a professional soccer player, which improved the family’s finances. However, he felt a longing for something more, a feeling that was fulfilled when he pursued his undergraduate degree in kinesiology at Metropolitan United College in Sao Paulo. This marked the beginning of a journey that led him to obtain a master's degree and a Ph.D. in the same field from the University of Sao Paulo.

During his Ph.D. studies, Dantas had the opportunity to spend a year as a visiting scholar at the Cleveland Clinic, an experience that profoundly impacted him. “Until that time, I have never imagined coming to the U.S. or living here with my family,” he said, “but destiny always surprises us.”

His principal investigator at the Cleveland Clinic, John P. Kirwan, then accepted a position at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University and invited Dantas to move with him and be a postdoc in his new lab. Dantas went home to Brazil, defended his dissertation and then returned to the U.S.

At Pennington Biomedical, Dantas now focuses on studying the nuclear factor erythroid-related 2, a key regulator of antioxidant and redox-regulating protein expression that is crucial for maintaining redox balance throughout life in humans. His research aims to develop new approaches to reducing fat mass while preserving muscle mass; this is particularly significant for combating sarcopenic obesity, which is characterized by reduced muscle mass and low strength.

Dantas’ passion for education and its transformative power stems from his own experiences, driving him to support and inspire the Latino community, especially immigrants facing similar challenges.

“Don't give up on your goals,” he said, “and have full conviction that you are capable of achieving your dreams regardless of the reality that surrounds you today.”

As one of this year’s American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers, or MOSAIC, scholars, Dantas is committed to promoting diversity in science and passing on his legacy of perseverance and determination. The MOSAIC award provides him with two years of postdoctoral funding, followed by three years of R01-level funding to launch his independent faculty career.

Dantas aspires to use science and education to improve the living conditions of elderly people and bring a better quality of life to people with obesity. He plans to pursue a faculty position to keep providing knowledge and improving people’s lives.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Thiago Pasin
Thiago Pasin

Thiago Pasin is a postdoctoral fellow in Audrey Lamb’s lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Honors for Castel, Kelch and Parks
Member News

Honors for Castel, Kelch and Parks

June 17, 2024

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

In memoriam: Karl A. Schellenberg
In Memoriam

In memoriam: Karl A. Schellenberg

June 17, 2024

He was the founding chair of biochemistry at Eastern Virginia Medical School and an ASBMB member for 56 years.

Meet the 2024 ASBMB Advocacy Training Program delegates
Training

Meet the 2024 ASBMB Advocacy Training Program delegates

June 13, 2024

The program's sixth cohort will learn how to advocate for science funding and support this summer and will visit Capitol Hill in 2025.

Honors for DeBose–Boyd, Michel and Nelson
Member News

Honors for DeBose–Boyd, Michel and Nelson

June 10, 2024

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

In memoriam: Bacon Ke
In Memoriam

In memoriam: Bacon Ke

June 10, 2024

He was a physical chemist and pioneer in the field of photochemistry of photosynthesis and had been an ASBMB member since 1968.

MOSAIC scholar navigates a nontraditional path
Profile

MOSAIC scholar navigates a nontraditional path

June 5, 2024

After two Army deployments to Iraq, Renato Navarro aspired to be a physician before a chance encounter on a university campus led him to study biomaterials.