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MySpace: Jorge Escalante

  • job: Ira L. Baldwin Professor of Bacteriology
  • lab: Located on the sixth floor of the Microbial Sciences Building
  • team: 13 graduate students, five undergrads, one high-school student and one research specialist
  • what we study: the metabolic process of bacteria

What’s the research question on your mind right now?

What are the means a cell uses to take advantage of its environment so it can survive and grow? In other words, we study metabolism—how bacterial cells extract energy from their environments.

Is work in the lab 9-to-5 or 24/7?

The clock is not our master. Sometimes students must stay all night to finish an experiment, checking the growth of bacteria at regular intervals. They routinely come to the lab on the weekend, which proves to be extremely difficult on football Saturdays because of the lack of parking. I face this problem, too!

What piece of equipment in your lab is used most often?

We use every toy we have with almost the same frequency, but I would probably say that the protein purification devices are at the top of the list.

What’s playing on the lab radio?

Music is not allowed in the lab. It prevents people from concentrating, and it is difficult to play music that pleases everyone’s taste.

Which is better: starting a new project, or finishing one?

Starting a project demands focus and the ability to prioritize. A new project is like a space shuttle—we spend more than 90 percent of our energy just getting it off the ground.

Clean desk or messy desk?

Good question. I can only say … I try.

Eat out or brown bag?

Even in my old age, I stick to the old gradstudent habit of bringing lunch and eating it while I work.

Any personal items in the lab?

Family pictures—although I love this job, I never forget where my real priorities lie.

What’s your desktop picture?

I have two pictures of my daughter, one when she was hours old and one of her dressed up for high school junior prom. There are also photos of my son and my wife.

What’s your favorite way to recharge the batteries?

I love deep-sea fishing. My son is my fishing buddy.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned by doing research?

That it never ends. Research is constantly challenging me intellectually, and that’s why I keep doing it.