Roberto’s undergraduate research uses zebrafish to identify genes that can lead to scoliosis.
Learn more about Roberto’s work with his video submission for the 2016 Texas Student Research Showdown.
Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Ryan Gray, Pediatrics
Briefly describe your research project.
I am currently studying idiopathic scoliosis in zebrafish, primarily focusing on adamts9. We are trying to establish genes that may induce scoliosis upon mutation.
Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
I have induced CRISPR mutations into zebrafish embryos in order to establish a line of mutant fish. I genotype and perform outcrosses with the fish to different strains of zebrafish, finally I perform in situ hybridization in order to see expression patterns of the mRNA in the zebrafish.
How did you get involved with your research project?
I was a part of the Freshman Research Initiative, and then went out and looked for research opportunities for undergraduates. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it.
Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
I plan on becoming an orthopedic surgeon, so background knowledge on scoliosis directly relates to my future career. Potentially, I could be a clinician and still conduct research.
What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve gotten to do for this project?
Having to inject embryos with microinjections of CRISPR gRNA was quite the adjustment, having to finely tune my fine motor skills in order to prevent breaking of the chorion and ensure proper viability of the fish was tough, but very engaging and fun.
What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
Take the initiative! It is up to you, and you alone, to go out there and look for opportunities, or make opportunities. Granted, I went through a lot of rejections, but it never hindered my goal of getting into a research lab. When in doubt, narrow your desires and go with what you are most passionate about, because after all, what starts here changes the world.
Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.