"I love and enjoy doing research; I am always willing to learn something new and I am happy to collaborate with and help as many people as I can. I do not even consider this a job; research is a part of my life." -Dr. Gil Martinez Bautista
Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Gil Martinez Bautista can often be found working at the Developmental Physiology Lab in the Life Science Building with Dr. Warren Burggren. His research involves studying the functional responses of zebrafish, from embryo to adults, to the changes of oxygen levels in water. He studies traits inherited through genetic processes (characteristics that are already fixed in the genome of the organisms) and 'non-genetic inheritance' or 'epigenetic inheritance,' which focuses on how traits are inherited through generations without altering the genome.
"Studies on epigenetic inheritance are important from biology to medicine and have different implications, such as the study of diseases, behavior, and, for my research's interest, to analyze the dynamics of those non-genetic inherited traits," said Dr. Bautista. "In other words, how they persist (or vanish) across and within generations. Moreover, these mechanisms are important for fish survival and the prevalence of the species."
His research project poses many questions, which sometimes require a long time to answer, due to the lifespans of the fish and the nature of his research. But that doesn't slow down Dr. Bautista. He says the most rewarding aspect of his research is that he can spend all day working and the work never ceases to interest him.
"Ideas lead to collaboration; collaboration leads to projects and projects lead to knowledge to share with the world. The more you learn, the more questions you have. This is one of the things that I most enjoy," he said. "Before I came to the US, it was kind of difficult to do research as I would have liked, especially because of lack of resources in my previous Universities. However, coming to the Developmental Physiology Lab with Dr. Burggren is the other side of the coin. Here, I feel like I am in a 'thematic park of science', which is something I enjoy every single day."
Dr. Bautista cites his mentor, Dr. Warren Burggren of the UNT Biological Sciences department, as the most challenging researcher he has worked with in his career. "His advice, direction, questions, approaches, and suggestions have shaped the researcher that I am today. He has taught me to consider every aspect of my projects and, at the same time, is clear and concise," he said.
"I first met Gil when he was an undergrad at Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico in Toluca, Mexico, and I was fortunate to be able to recognize his talent at that early stage in his career," said Dr. Bruggren. "After Gil visited UNT and I could see him in action in the lab, in my mind it became a matter of how rather than if he could join our lab. When our new NSF grant came through in July (with Co-PI Pamela Padilla), we had a way to hire him as a post-doc. Since then, it's been hard to keep up with Gil as he has immersed himself into our laboratory's research projects with real energy and enthusiasm. I especially love the highly collaborative spirit he brings to our efforts - it's good for the graduate trainees to see this as a way of doing science!"
Prior to coming to the University of North Texas for his postdoctoral studies, Dr. Bautista received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico, and his PhD in Science with the Division Academica de Ciencias Biologicas at Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco. He had visited UNT's Developmental Physiology Lab for workshops and research visits and knew it was where he wanted to continue his career.
"The projects carried out by Dr. Burggren are my main topic of interest," said Dr. Bautista. "I had been working with developing fishes, studying morphological, physiological and molecular responses as a function of the changing environment, especially during sensitive periods of development within and across generations, and Dr. Burggren is especially focused on those topics," he said.
Dr. Bautista's sound advice to those who are interested in following a career path in research and the pursuit of scientific knowledge is this: "Research requires a lot of dedication and reading is the key! If someone has a project, there are many aspects that need to be considered, many possible explanations, many different processes that are interrelated. So, reading about and analyzing the whole context is my best advice. It is possible that the answer is not exactly where we are looking for, but somewhere else."
For more information about Dr. Burggren's Developmental Physiology Laboratory, visit http://biol.unt.edu/~burggren/Lab%20website/home.html