Spotlight On...


Sebastian Rojas Villa

Graduate Student, The Biteau Lab (URMC)

UR photo

You work in a laboratory. What are you currently researching?

I am part of the research group of Dr. Benoit Biteau in the medical center. We use fruit flies as a model to understand how adult stem cells maintain proper tissue homeostasis. In most adult tissues a complex network of genes maintains a fine-tuned balance between stem cell proliferation and differentiation in response to external stimuli. We are trying to understand how different genes affect these processes. Currently I am working on a highly conserved transcription factor, directly involved in stem differentiation and indirectly regulating stem cell division.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I have always wanted to understand how life works, how humans work. I remember being 14 years old in my life science class, always interrupting my professor asking about specific experiments, asking for more information. I remember several times when my professor told me that he just didn’t know the answer to my questions. It was around that time that I discovered that being a scientist was an actual career - that you could be trained in asking relevant questions, trained in how to design experiments to answer those questions. It was back then that a 14 year old Sebastian decided that he wanted to be a scientist. I haven’t looked back since then.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

To never give up. No matter how long and hard the road may seem, things always work out in the end.

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

The people I get to work with. I have made amazing friends, both inside and outside the biology department.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I try to find a balance between my "alone time" and my "social time". I enjoy watching movies and reading books (way too many books sometimes). I also enjoy going out with friends for drinks (Lux is a favorite place of ours), playing board games (a pleasantly surprising quantity of people in grad school also enjoy board games), and exploring the city with friends.