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Luis Rodriguez: Presbyopia Will Affect Everyone At Some Point In Their Adult Life

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Final Words... | Biomedical Engineering (M.S.) | November 07, 2016

Your name, program, mentor name.

Luis A. Rodriguez II, Master in Science in Biomedical Engineering, Jean X. Jiang

When did you realize you were passionate about science?

My passion for science was developed at an early age by my father, who is a microbiology professor at a local community college. As a kid, I spent many days watching him in the prep lab making agar plates, inoculating media and staining bacteria to prepare for his upcoming classes. At home we performed simple experiments such as mixing baking soda and vinegar to inflate balloons, crystalizing sugar solution to make rock candy, and extracting DNA from strawberries. Ultimately, these early experiences sparked my passion for science.

Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.

After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Biology, I knew I wanted to continue my education and transition into the biomedical engineering field. The Joint Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering between The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas San Antonio was very attractive to me for a couple of reasons. 

The program gives you the ability to take advantage of a strong engineering based program at UTSA and a strong biomedical science program and state of the art research facilities at UT Health San Antonio. The joint program also fosters a collaborative research environment between the universities, which helps push the boundaries of biomedical engineering research.

Tell me about your research. Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?

My research is focused on the mechanical properties, specifically the stiffness, of the crystalline lens. We hope to show how specific proteins in the lens contribute to the native mechanical properties of the lens. This may give us new insights into the processes that drive age related stiffening in the lens, which are still poorly understood. Age related stiffening of the lens gives rise to a condition called presbyopia, which is the progressive loss of the ability to focus on near objects as we age.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

This research is important because presbyopia will affect everyone at some point in their adult life. The treatments for presbyopia range from corrective glasses to various surgical options but successful and repeatable corrections still remain a challenge. By understanding the processes that drive lens stiffening it may be possible to develop treatments for presbyopia, improving productivity and quality of life for those affected by this condition.

What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?

The most important thing I learned in graduate school was what it takes to be a great scientist. I’ve seen firsthand, from my mentor and my lab mates, the dedication, passion, curiosity, hard work, and mental fortitude that is needed to be a successful researcher.

What do you like to do outside of graduate school?

When I’m not in the lab or in class, you can find me at the YMCA. I’ve worked there, part-time, for four years as a membership representative, soccer referee, and soccer coach. I really enjoy working there whether I’m behind the front desk or out on the soccer fields!

What’s next?

Graduation! After graduation, I plan on continuing my education and pursuing a Ph.D. I’m in the process of applying to different graduate programs. I’d like to continue to conduct research in biomechanics but go in a new direction, specifically musculoskeletal biomechanics and human movement. 

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