Mentor Interview: During my internship at UCSD I was able to work alongside, Dr. Francisco Villarreal. He obtained his M.D from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and later went on to complete his PHD in physiology and pharmacology at UCSD. He now currently works under the divisions of cardiology and endocrinology in the school of medicine. I am so grateful to him for allowing me this opportunity to work and learn in a professional laboratory environment.
Down below I included the audio file of my mentor interview and below that, a transcript of it. Enjoy!
Transcript: Why did you chose this career? When I was in high school I was interested in science and I always had a preference in science that has to do with the body, you can call it life sciences. So, when I was in high school I sort of told myself that I would like to become a scientist and in Mexico, back in the 1970's, there wasn't an easy path to science. I figured medical school was going to give me a good training in sort of basic human biology and once I finished medical school I could sort of move onto getting a masters or doctorate and fortunately things worked out the way I planned. So I finished medical school and then got my PHD in physiology and pharmacology and started a career in science. What steps did you have to take to pursue this career? As I mentioned I finished high school in Mexico and I had really good grades so I applied to medical school where I did very well. So when I was done I was already applying for my PHD in UCSD and I was very fortunate because UCSD offered me a position in the PHD program which used to be called, Physiology-Pharmacology. So in 1984 I started, working on my degree, I finished in 1989 and began my career in science. What drives you to achieve your goals everyday? It's a lot for science really and a lot for discovering new things and also the interest in being able to make a difference in patients health. There are many diseases that require a very significant amount of investment, personal investment and investment of society towards trying to understand how they evolve, how they progress and how they change, and how is it that we can treat them. How can we modify them. I have a strong interest in understanding the basis of how disease comes about and how can we modify the disease for the better. Either with drugs or with other strategies. What were one of the struggles you had with pursing this career or with this career right now, how did you get past those and did it help you grow as a person? If yes, how? I guess I didn't really have any struggles because I was always able to look ahead and I am a person that prides in being able to be prepared. So to the extent that you can see ahead and to the extent that you can prepare yourself then the chances of encountering any struggle become much less and become much more manageable. So I was fortunate because I always looked ahead, I always did well with my grades, I always focused on what I wanted to achieve, never deviated from the goals I had set for myself and then just like a laser focus, focus, focus, focus, work hard, study a lot, work hard and things worked out for the better. So indeed I was fortunate because I never really had any struggle that slowed me down or prevented me from getting to where I am right now. It doesn't mean that any of us will not encounter an illness, a family death or something like that that can slow us down, so I was fortunate in that regard. What is your favorite part about research and or working in a lab? No two days are the same. Every day is different. Every day you wake up with the idea of new work. You have a particular set of goals that your trying to get to the promised land if you will. On the other hand, working in a university is always a good way of energizing yourself because your surrounded by young people. Your always surround by people who are possibly following in your footsteps. Becoming very successful scientists, doctors, pharmacologists, dentists, and a big part of our responsibility as professors is to educate the new generation and we take a lot of pride in being able to train the young people in doing similar or maybe even different things, but that's okay and moving onto the next station in their life. We have been very lucky because we have seen many of the graduates do very well in their life. What do you consider your biggest achievement in your life and career? The biggest achievement as a professional would be to realize my life goals. Which was to become a scientist and be a professor at a university. And when you add to that, the fact that I am at a high caliber institution like UCSD, surround by high caliber people and colleagues. Surrounded by high caliber installations and people who are motivated and have common interests, that really completes the picture for me which is to see all of this gel surrounding, the concept of being able to achieve said goals and being in a environment as closest to optimal. What is your biggest piece of advice for future generations? You need to be very focused and work very hard and be very motivated. I think there is a little bit of a let down in regard to the expectation of what it takes to get to where you want to be. I think young generations need to realize that meeting your own goals represents having drawn ambitious goals, you need to be ambitious, you need to be goal oriented and then focused and then you need to be able to put in the energy that is required to get there. 90 percent of that should come from your own effort. 10 percent should come from the other people that are outside your own control, which are the people that are trying to educate you, supervise you or train you, because ultimately it is your own responsibility to succeed and forge ahead. New generations should not expect to have their milk bottles be prepared by those educating them. That seems to be the expectation these days. You know, just make me a bottle and feed me. That shouldn't be the attitude. The attitude from a lot of people that got to this place. Especially previous generations, who fought hard for the liberties we have now, say those from the 2nd world war. These people value hard work, value how fragile life can be, value being able to commit themselves to the greater good and by the way become excellent citizens, including their professional lives, so their is this expectation in society these days that we come to expect that it is the educators obligation to prepare the bottles and put them in our mouths and that is completely the wrong attitude. It should be the younger generations pushing the cart forward and the only part in which your senior people should just be providing directions, you know, up, right, left, down. But your the one who's either pushing or pulling. That's 90 percent of what it takes to be a successful professional, especially in the world of science.