Spring 2005

Esquina de la Editora
Hispanic/Latin@ Diversity and Identity
by Ligia Lundine


Whatís In a Name?
By Ignacio Corona

On the Cultural Diversity of Latin America
By Abril Trigo

Hispanic/Latin@ Diversity and Identity: A New Paradigm
By Ligia Lundine

What Does Being Hispanic/
Latin@ Mean to You?
Opinions from students, faculty, staff and members of the community

Alpha Psi Lambda:
20 Years of Tradición y Familia

Demography – Hispanic/Latin@ Population in the U.S.A.
By Víctor J. Mora

A Poem
By Noe Tirado-Muñiz

Portuguese at Ohio State and Curitiba, Brazil
By Professor Lúcia Costigan

A Place to Stand: Implications of Latin@ Diversity
By Ernesto R. Escoto and Gonzalo Bruce

Understanding Latin@ Diets: One Research Group’s Efforts to Empower Fellow Latin@s
By Cristine Masters

The Trivia Question of the Week: Participating Restaurants

In Every Issue:

Graduates Achieving their Goals at OSU! Winter 2005

Su opinión
Latin@ or Hispanic: Does It Make a Difference?
By Ivonne García

Snapshot of Activities

Study Abroad
Paella, Siestas, and Studying, Oh My!
By Leslie Dunstan

Food Review
Chase Away Those Early Spring Blues
By By Anisa Shomo


Faculty Profile
Patricia Enciso - Education: “One of the most cherished, democratic and liberatory spaces.”
By Ligia Lundine

Juan Alfonzo - The Science of Persistence and Dedication
By Ligia Lundine

Graduate Student
Rosario Barbieri

Undergraduate Student
Luís Sanchez


Juan Alfonzo - The Science of Persistence and Dedication
By Ligia Lundine

"If you are an artist, scientist or a philosopher, everything is hard and takes work if you want to be successful"

Alfonzo working in his laboratory.In 1980, Juan Alfonzo came to the United States from Venezuela with the intention of studying English for a couple of months. Today, 25 years later, with a Ph.D. in microbiology from the Indiana University, and a successful and prolific scientific career in several institutions (including the University of California in Los Angeles and here at Ohio State), he recalls those days with a nostalgic smile on his face. After finishing his bachelor's degree at Indiana with a major in microbiology, Alfonzo knew he wanted to pursue an advanced degree in science. Despite his strong desire, things were not easy in the beginning. In order to stay in Indiana, he worked for one year at a bakery and it was precisely there when opportunity knocked at his door. Only one week before the business declared bankruptcy, Alfonzo ran into one of his former professors, who happened to buy bread at the bakery. This professor offered Alfonzo a job as a lab technician, marking the starting point in his career.

The impact that a professor can have in our lives is a recurring element that weaves the threads of our careers. As a chemistry student at Indiana University, Alfonzo was tremendously inspired by Prof. Walter Konetzka, who taught an introductory microbiology class. After one semester of taking Konetzka's class, Alfonzo changed his major from chemistry to microbiology, and he knew he had found his professional passion in life. Konetzka taught more than 11,000 students during 37 years of his academic and research career, and inspired many students, including Alfonzo and other successful scientists.

With a promising scientific career in front of him, Alfonzo had several options after he finished his doctoral degree at University of California in Los Angeles. He was invited to 14 universities to give job talks and present his research. When it came to make the final decision, Ohio State stood out among another six institutions. Alfonzo said the main reason why he joined Ohio State was the potential to work in the university's renowned Department of Microbiology, specifically in the area of RNA biochemistry.

An analogy to understand Alfonzo's research…

- The DNA could be compared with the hard drive of a computer where all the genetic information is stored. But having the information just sitting there can do very little.

- The information needs to be translated into a form that can be transformed into a function. That function is a protein.

- To achieve that, a decoder is required, and this decoder comes in the form of tRNA (transfer RNA) which could be compared with a CD from a hard drive.

- Then the CD is put into a CD player and not until then, the information can be used.

- What Alfonzo studies is the "CD" or tRNA, a device that is able to transfer the information from a hard drive into a form in which work can be done.

Alfonzo, and his team of researchers, which includes a group of Ph.D. students and post doctoral scientists who have decided to join his lab, work with DNA¹ and RNA² from parasites. The latter are protozoan, microscopic organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Alfonzo and his group are interested in exploiting the differences between parasites and human beings for the purpose of providing therapies for the diseases these parasites cause.

As a message to the Latin@ community at Ohio State, Alfonzo recalls a quote from Aquiles Nasoa, a Venezuelan poet: "When you write to eat, you don't eat and you don't write." Alfonzo says: "You better do things for the right reason, if you are going to write, it should be because you like to write. The eating takes care of itself." During his career, Alfonzo has noticed that few Latin@ students and even students in general show much interest in science. He has heard comments from his students complaining about the fact that science seems to be too difficult and too demanding. But Alfonzo states: "In every field of knowledge, if you think it will not take a lot of work, you have been a little bit misguided... everything else being equal, every discipline takes work."


¹DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid that carries genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA. Source: 2005.
²RNA: Ribonucleic acid: A polymeric constituent of all living cells and many viruses, consisting of a long, usually single-stranded chain of alternating phosphate and ribose units. Source: 2005.







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