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Hector Hernandez’s Personal Story


“I found the same feeling of community in my scientific career that I have always valued in my extended family.”


Hector initially worked in construction, but at age 29, he realized he wanted to use his mind instead of his back in his career.  With the help of a key-mentor at a community college, he started studying chemistry, a subject that allowed him to apply his mechanical training and introduced him to colleagues who have become like family.

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  • MIT Title

    MIT postdoctoral researcher (’08-‘11) in Prof. Janelle Thompson’s Lab

  • In your current work, where do you find inspiration/real-word application to your research? What about science continues to inspire you?

    I’m a big history buff. I try to read about big thinkers and their lives and how and what their environment contributed to the development of their personal outlook on life. In particular, I like to look at how science was done pre-electronics / computer age. I get inspired when I see the elegant and beautiful thought that went into the design and execution of experiments. I think that we forget how to do elegant experiments.

    My research career has been a meandering trail that has lead from chemistry and biochemistry to environmental microbiology. The main thing that keeps me excited about staying is science is how each research project, each area that I have the opportunity to delve into, just keeps on building on my knowledge. There is an infinite opportunity to continue to learn about the world around me.

  • What is your favorite non-science book, blog, or magazine?

    I am an info junkie. I use newsfeed aggregators such as Twitter, Flipboard, or Zite to stay up to date with information. Online magazines like Intelligent Life by the Economist, Wired, or Science News Prime keep me going too. Also, anything that has to do with architecture or design.

  • What kind of student were you?

    I have to say that I was not the best student. I had a very low level of interest in what was being taught. I would bring another book and hide it inside the textbook and read that in class. In college I loved the science core classes, but laboratory work took precedence in college. From the very beginning, I really felt at home at the bench.

  • Did you know how to play a sport or musical instrument? Which one?

    Growing up, I did not do a lot of sports. My family moved around a lot and it was hard to develop friends. I started playing violin and became pretty adept at it. I ended up playing all string instruments in several orchestra and string ensembles and French horn / trumpet in band in high school. Music still plays a large part in my life.

  • What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?

    That is a hard question to answer. The last couple of weeks it has had to be Middle of the Road from Alabama 3. I have been listening to Brimful of Asha by Fat Boy Slim this week. Some of the most played songs have to be Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission soundtrack, Where the Streets Have No Name or Bad live, by U2, or Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. I guess it all depends on what week you ask.

  • If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

    Wow, that is a tough one. My friends joke that I had pretty much every job out there at one point. The one thing I think I would love to be is an astronaut. The thought of going out into the cosmos is just really exciting. That or an F1 driver. I love going fast.

  • Do you have a favorite quotation about science?

    I found one this week on the wall at New York University Abu Dhabi’s research center’s cafeteria: “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world” – Luis Pasteur. Another one is: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” One heard by MIT Professor Bob Langer: “It takes the same amount of energy to work on an important problem as an unimportant problem. Make sure you work on the important problems” (paraphrased).