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#IAmScience Roberto Nascimento


By Sarah Kiefer | Bond LSC

Roberto Nascimento believes a personal touch led him to where he is today. Nascimento found it essential to reach out via email to the programs where he might land, which is something many of his peers questioned.

But, Nascimento saw it very clearly.

“If you don’t try, you already have the no. If you take a chance, you might get it. It’s always worth trying,” Nascimento said.

One of those emails and a desire to combine new skills with his previous experience in mass spectrometry led him to become a postdoctoral fellow in the Jay Thelen lab at Bond LSC. He saw it as a program where he could learn and better himself the most.

Nascimento chose to be a biologist because of his longstanding interest with the inner workings of the plant metabolism process. That interest started with his undergraduate degree in biology from the Federal University of Ceara in Brazil. Nascimento was sold on his career path from the first time his professor explained the fundamentals of ATP being converted into energy in his beginning biochemistry course and onward.

“I found biology to be fascinating and decided from that point on that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” Nascimento stated.

While still completing his undergraduate degree, he received a scholarship from the Brazilian government to spend one year at Tulane University in New Orleans. This was his first time in the United States, and it ignited a dream of conducting research in the U.S. one day. When Nascimento went home, he finished his Masters and Ph.D in biochemistry from the Federal University of Ceara, spending two dissertation years experimenting with mass spectrometry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Nascimento’s research at Bond LSC primarily focuses on how plants regulate the storage of lipids. He makes alterations — such as knocking out genes or transferring a gene from one organism to another — to see how the expression of that gene changes the plant’s metabolism. Nascimento is developing mutant plants that produce more oil, so he can work towards finding the “smoking gun,” the genes responsible for stopping the production of oil in the first place and deactivate them.

This information can be used for biofuels research, helping to determine how economical a crop is by measuring the amount of oil it is producing. Changing the quantity produced, even by a small percentage, can result in a million-dollar increase in the revenue that the plant yields.

Nascimento hails from a small town in Brazil, but relocated to a larger city for university. His move to Columbia, Missouri, has been a comfortable and a pleasant change. He loves many aspects of the city, but overall, he enjoys the ease of mind that it brings.

“My favorite part of Columbia is how calm it is. I have lived in bigger cities, where you are always paying attention to your surroundings. I really like how safe Columbia is.”

Nascimento’s favorite restaurant in Columbia is El Rancho, on E. Broadway. He describes the feel and ambiance as one of the key factors he enjoys the most about the place.

“I love eating the wonderful food that Columbia has to offer,” Nascimento says.

To pass the time Nascimento keeps up a gym regimen, but for a change of scenery he surrounds himself with nature by visiting Osage Lake or taking a walk on the MKT Trail.

“I like the MKT trail because it somehow reminds me of my small town,” Nascimento said.

After Nascimento’s post doc is complete, he plans to find another. His goal is to eventually become a principal investigator (PI), leading his own research lab.

“The more experience you have with techniques, the better, so I want to develop my skills as much as I can here,” Nascimento said.

Article originally published on Decoding Science.