GS: Where are you from?
JC: I was born in New Orleans, LA. However, my whole family is from and resides in El Salvador, where I lived from the age of 10-18. I did my undergraduate education at Loyola University New Orleans.
GS: What degree did you/will you receive and when?
JC: I am an MD/PhD student. I received my PhD in Microbiology this last summer (2012). I will receive my MD in 2014
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
JC: I have been at UAB for 6 years (I am in my sixth year for the Medical Scientist Training Program)
GS: What is your research?
JC: My research focuses on understanding the evolution of the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae and its capsule, especially in response to immunological factors the bacterium encounters in human hosts.
GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
JC: UAB has an academic track record comparable to many other good schools around the country. What made me decide to come to UAB was the familial environment of the MSTP, the great price of living in Birmingham, and the city/small town feel of Birmingham.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors? (Please include the Barker Award)
JC: 2004 - Albert Einstein College of Medicine Minority Summer Undergraduate Research Program Fellowship
2004-2005 - Loyola University Richard Frank Grant for undergraduate research
2005 - Rev. John H. Mullahay Award for outstanding performance in the Biologocial Sciences
2005 – Induction into the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honors Society
2005 – Induction into the Pi Delta Phi French Honors Society
2005 – Induction into the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honors Society, 2005
2005 - Graduated from Loyola University Magna Cum Laude with University and Biological Sciences Honors
2006 - Travel grant to attend and present at the 54th Annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Conference
2007 - Best Poster Presentation in Microbiology, UAB Medical Student Research Day
2008 - Finalist for Best Intermediate Term Research Presentation (all categories), 2008 UAB Medical Student Research Day
2009 - Invited panelist, “Universal Health Coverage: Can It Eliminate Health Disparities” UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center - Health Disparities Research Symposium, April 2009
2009 - David E. Wells Memorial Scholarship for most outstanding Microbiology qualifying examination, UAB Department of Microbiology
2009 - Travel Grant to attend the 2009 SACNAS National Conference, Dallas, TX
2010 - Appointment to the Student Advisory Committee for the selection of a new Dean of Medicine, Medical Scientist Research Program representative
2010 - ASM Student Fellow Travel Grant to attend the 50th ICAAC National Conference 2010, Boston, MA
2010 - Travel Grant to attend the 2010 SACNAS National Conference, Anaheim, CA
2011 - Finalist for Best Long Term Research Presentation (all categories), 2011 UAB Medical Student Research Day
2012 - Travel Grant to attend the 2012 International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Disease, Iguacu Falls, Brazil
2012 - Samuel B. Barker Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies, UAB
2012 - Outstanding Student in the Microbiology Graduate Program
2012 – Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship award to attend the Gordon Research Conference on Bacterial Cell Surfaces, West Dover, VT
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
JC: Volunteer work at the student run free clinic or health fair/screening around the city with Cahaba Valley Healthcare
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
JC: Split between my principle investigator Moon Nahm and my program director Robin Lorenz. Moon has worked hard in helping shape me into the scientist I am today. Robin has been very important in helping me get through the hard parts and providing a model in how to run an academic program.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
JC: At the end of a successful experiment, being the first person ever to know a piece of information, and thinking of ways how the new information can be used to help others. That is my drive to be a scientist.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
JC: Finishing my medical residency and fellowship in infectious diseases, aiming to stay in academic medicine.
GS: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JC: UAB has been a great experience and I'd like to thank all the friends and faculty that have made my tenure here so successful and fun.
Juan’s Advice for Other Graduate Students
Work hard with a sense of duty to your school, to your stipend and to your science. And have fun. It may be cliche, but if you're not having fun and you can't see yourself having fun any time soon, you may want to rethink where you are.