Meet Dr. Efra Rivera-Serrano (He/Him/His)! Efra is originally from Puerto Rico and currently lives in North Carolina, USA! He is the founder of #UniqueScientists and can be found traveling all over the country spreading science communication and inclusiveness in STEM!
What kind of scientist are you?
I am a cell biologist and virologist by training. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites that can only replicate once they infect a cell. I am fascinated by the virus-host cell interphase. That is, I care about the mechanisms viruses use to enter and replicate inside cells and how cells respond back to try and fight the infection. I am also a science communicator and love to write and talk about public engagement strategies, self-branding, communicating science to non-scientists, and the power of diversity in STEM.
What made you want to become a scientist?:
I grew up with limited resources. My mom did not even finish elementary education, yet she knew I was smart enough to use my brain and imagination to help others and she pushed me to become the man I am today. Throughout my teenager years, I started my own business based on farm and exotic animal breeding as a source of income (we were VERY poor); and the basis of how specific traits are passed through generations sparked my interest in how cells work and genetic information is inherited. Biology is part of who I am and discovering the mysteries of life is my daily motivation.
“I am a first generation college student. I am gay, latino, very vocal, and full of tattoos. I am that recipe that no one on the street would guess has a Ph.D. in molecular biology.”Dr. Efra Rivera-Serrano
What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am a first generation college student. I am gay, latino, very vocal, and full of tattoos. I am that recipe that no one on the street would guess has a Ph.D. in molecular biology. Throughout my life, I have experienced many losses, but also many successes. I owe everything I have and everything I am today to every single one of those experiences and to my identity. My current goal is to teach others that the best life you can live depends on YOU embracing your uniqueness. Never hide or give up your identity to please others.
What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am the proud dad of five rescue dogs who are my everything (along with my husband, of course!). I am an advocate for mental and physical health, especially in higher education. I am a long-distance runner and I am a certified personal trainer!
If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would revamp most of the system. While society and education continue to evolve, the current logistics of how science is run has changed only minimally in the last decades. Many factors (e.g. peer review process, open access publications, biases, research training, etc.) could be improved to make science what it is: a field where curiosity is praised and encouraged. We scientists decided to become a part of this profession because we have the desire to improve the world – it is unfortunate that many brilliant minds won’t get to enjoy the absolute pleasure of doing science if certain factors remain the way they are.
“While society and education continue to evolve, the current logistics of how science is run has changed only minimally in the last decades.”Dr. Efra Rivera-Serrano
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I would not be here without every single teacher and mentor I have had throughout my life. From elementary school all the way to graduate school. The passion and dedication of instructors is often undervalued, yet they have the power to change our lives forever.
Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I have been working with an AMAZING team of scientists from all over the world in making #UniqueScientists happen. If 5 years ago you would have told me that one day I would be group-chatting with folks in different continents at the same time towards a same goal I would have died laughing. This experience has been wonderful and I am looking forward to spending more time on this project and getting to know more and more scientists everyday.
#QueerInSTEM, #LatinxInSTEM, #BrownInSTEM