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‘Keep Pushing Harder’: Brother Marco Perez Completes Prestigious Research Program

Moving to the big city of San Antonio to begin college was quite the shock for Marco Perez. Up until his freshman year, he had only known the comfort and familiarity of his small hometown, with no more than 4000 people.

But as the junior soon found, his journey at St. Mary’s University would lead him down many new paths, including conducting his own medical research.

Perez has always been passionate about his major of biology and minor of chemistry, but this summer, he was able to take that love one step further as a researcher at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Perez says he joined Lambda Chi Alpha because they stood above the rest. Photo courtesy of Marco Perez.

During the 10-week program, Perez was responsible for researching glaucoma and the mechanisms of the disease, which could lead to better treatment. According to Perez, not much is actually known about the neurodegenerative disease, but through his research, some progress was made in learning more.

“The more you learn about it and how much it affects the brain, nervous function, there is just so much that ties in with this neurological disorder,” said Perez. “You do get a better understanding, and I guess an appreciation for a disease that is overlooked.”

Though 10 weeks is not a substantial amount of time to make any major breakthroughs, Perez says the experience was invaluable in his development as a researcher.

The first two weeks offered lessons in how to research and what kinds of experiments Perez would be conducting. The following eight weeks allowed Perez to formulate his research, after consulting with more senior researchers. This, as Perez said, was the most fun part because he never knew what he was going to get.

During the whole experience, Perez found more meaning in what he was doing and reaffirmed that he is in the right field.

“The most rewarding thing was just feeling like you had some type of impact,” said Perez. “That’s the biggest thing, to feel like you are making some kind of difference; that’s the dream for a lot of people, trying to make some sort of groundbreaking achievement, but it’s great to actually be doing something about this disease that affects 60-70 million people worldwide.”

After his 10 weeks were finished, Perez had much to show for his work, including a better understanding of a few of the underlying mechanisms that weren’t previously known in the study of glaucoma, namely how certain cells in the retina of the eye die because of the disease.

Perez says he is thankful for the experience and how much it has prepared him for what is next in his life, be it the big or small.

“You study your biology and your chemistry, and I’m really into it and that’s something I enjoy, but actually experiencing that in a lab setting, obviously not many people get to do that,” said Perez. “It really instills in you a new sense of passion and lights the eternal flame to keep on pushing harder.”

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