A curious mind

Abiel Trevino Garza (standing, sixth student from the left) with other winners in Taiwan.

Abiel Trevino Garza exudes excitement for science. When the undergraduate researcher talks about his research project, his eyes light up and his words and gestures become animated. His scientific curiosity is palpable.

Trevino Garza arrived at Stowers late last fall to complete the research component of his undergraduate work from the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS) in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The specialized program at CGS is designed more like a graduate program than an undergraduate one. Experts from around the world teach various components of the curriculum, and each student is required to undertake an independent research project. 

Intrigued by neuroscience since high school, Trevino Garza decided to seek out a research program focusing on memory. “The brain is magnificent,” he says. “It gives us the remarkable ability of self-recognition.” When he discovered the work of Associate Investigator Kausik Si, PhD, on the formation of stable, long-term memories, he knew he had found a fit. And Si was glad to gain another young researcher so enthusiastic about science.

His research project, “Experience ex-specific long-term memory in Drosophila melanogaster,” is based on the lab’s previous work. It focuses on external experiences that elicit specific behavioral responses that get stored as a long-term memory and then guide future behavior. In other words, Trevino Garza wants to determine why fruit flies develop a long-lasting memory of some natural sugars, but not others, by identifying the underlying gustatory receptors and the corresponding neuronal circuits. “We are particularly interested in this question because it may help us to understand how we form long-lasting memory of only some, but not all, experiences,” Si explains.

Trevino Garza has long been interested in finding out the “why” of things. During high school, he worked as a clinical lab technician and spent many hours at a microscope viewing cells from patients suffering from leukemia and other blood disorders. It was then that he decided he wanted to know more about the origin of disease rather than just how to identify and treat it. “Research science focuses on the basic questions,” he shares. So, he immersed himself in a high school research project titled “Prototype for production of mycorrhiza as a natural bio fertilizer” that earned him top honors in his local science fair and third place at an international fair in Taiwan.

During his early undergraduate work, Trevino Garza, along with other like-minded young students, continued their curious scientific pursuits as they developed research projects for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition. Award-winning projects took the team to competitions in South America and the United States. 

But it is at the Stowers Institute that the globetrotting scientist believes he is doing his best work. “The people are so kind and willing to discuss projects, and the resources here allow you to focus on the research which leads to a faster pace of science.” The diversity of scientific minds is just another reason he emphatically believes that “Stowers is the best place to do science!”