Alejandro Villalobos’ interest in science sparked in a small border town in Douglas, Arizona. Alejandro was a student athlete highly interested in chemistry, biology and basketball during his four years of high school. As a high school senior, he had to decide between playing basketball at a two-year college or attending the University of Arizona to major in biochemistry. Of course, his passion for science overcame everything else and decided to attend the UofA.
As he started off college, his first year involved taking general chemistry with Dr. Amy Graham, which is where his passion for chemistry grew even more. Alejandro explains that Dr. Graham motivated him to do well in his classes and encouraged him to help others by teaching the wonderful field of chemistry. Every time he prepared for exams, he would remember Dr. Graham saying that you don’t prepare for a marathon a day before. you start practicing way before the marathon, and that should be the same for school. His sophomore year had the most impact on Alejandro, as he had the opportunity to work as a UA chemistry tutor for think tank. He also had the honor to become a member of Dr. Thomas Gianetti’s research lab, where his project focuses on novel organometallic anodes for direct alcohol fuel cells. His favorite class so far is organic chemistry, and he loves the fact that he can practice the skills gained in his classes, especially organic chemistry skills.
In addition, Alejandro had the opportunity to be a part of the UROC-MHD program under Holly Lopez during the summer 2018, where he enhanced his skills as a scientist and prepared himself for graduate school. The UROC-MHD program offered workshops and classes that helped him get a better understanding of what will be involved in graduate school and helped him complete the GRE, one of the requirements for graduate school. Throughout the summer, he had the opportunity to work under Dr. Wolfgang Peti where he conducted research on TEV (tobacco etch virus) proteases. The summer program helped Alejandro understand the role of a scientist much better, and realize that he was more passionate about the chemistry side of his biochemistry project. As the program came to an end, with the support of Dr. Wolfgang Peti, Dr. Thomas Gianetti, Holly Lopez, and Megan Cunnginton, he decided to change majors from biochemistry to chemistry.
As he started his junior year, he learned that WAESO (Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities), one of the groups that funds UROC, would award him a stipend for the lab's research proposal entitled, “Novel Organometallic Anodes for Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells”. Alejandro was notified about an award for the fall semester and two upcoming conferences in Washington after his poster presentation at the UROC conference. He said that it is always awesome to be able to be a part of research, and that it is wonderful to be able to put everything we learn in class into practice.
Alejandro is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the summer program with UROC-MHD and wants to thank Holly Lopez, Cindy Neal, and Dr. Wolfgang Peti for their extensive support. He also wants to thank his supervisor, Gregory London, as well as Dr. Thomas Gianetti and the entire lab group for their absolute support, advice, and help in and outside of the lab. If there is any advice Alejandro could give to other students right now, it would be to pick a lab in the field you love and find a group that helps you become a better scientist and person. Become involved in your department and clubs, talk to your peers and especially your professors, as they have the best advice and the most amazing stories to share about chemistry and life. Enjoy the life of a scientist!
Alejandro is expected to graduate in the spring of 2020 and hopes to enter a graduate program in Chemistry or Biochemistry. Congratulations again, Alejandro, on your success in the UROC-MHD program and on receiving the WAESO award. We look forward to hearing about your future pursuits.