By Erica Overfelt | Bond LSC
Research is like a puzzle, and figuring out how the pieces fit together is Gilberto Perez’s favorite part of research.
“In research you have to think about the steps,” Perez said. “Most likely, I’m not going to complete the puzzle in my lifetime, but it will help someone else put a piece in it and hopefully, down the road, it will be finished.”
Before coming to Mizzou, Perez had mindless jobs in high school and that’s why he likes the idea of a puzzle. He came here unsure of what he wanted to be involved in until he was introduced to a major in biochemistry. He took classes with Stefan Sarafianos then soon got involved with his lab at Bond LSC. When Sarafianos left Perez was under the direction Kamlendra Singh in the lab.
“Once I started to figure out how important research was, it showed me an important aspect of finding cures and vaccinations,” Perez said. “I like mysteries, and it’s a big giant mystery on what works and what doesn’t.”
When Perez first joined the lab his sophomore year he made solutions and buffers, now he uses those same buffers to make reaction mixes to see the efficacy in drug resistance in HIV. The lab tests which drugs react best to HIV viruses.
“I really like the work I do with virology,” Perez said. “It interests me how viruses work.”
Two years later, Perez sees how research extends outside of the lab.
“I always figured research was about taking steps to figure out what to do next, such as in life,” Perez said. “You take little chances here and there and figure out the outcomes, but sometimes you have to take a different approach. You see failures and it is not your fault but it is just life. It is about the persistence of life.”
Along with a new way of seeing life, the lab has also introduced Perez to different perspectives on various cultures.
“Our lab consists of three people and our cultures are all very different,” Perez said. “There are diverse minds, so it really helps out with communicating. They are more patient to be able to hear what I am saying, there are times I don’t make sense. Because of their patience I am able to articulate slowly.”
However, a new perspective isn’t the only thing the lab has given him. Perez was president of Association of Latina America Students last year and credits the lab for the confidence to run.
“I have become more social and have taken a lot of leadership roles,” Perez said. “I am becoming more independent, before I was very dependent on others. I wouldn’t take the initiative. I was really scared of failure and that is something research teaches you. I just have to accept all the mess ups I make.”