Alonso Martinez-Canabal

  • Position: PhD student

  • Originally from: Mexico

  • Degree(s): BSc, MSc (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

  • Joined in: Summer 2006

  • Publications: Pubmed Search

Where did you study before coming to Toronto: I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology and my Master’s degree in Experimental Biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. After turning my focus toward neuroscience, I eventually realized that my knowledge of plants, history, and philosophy isn’t at all worthless. I believe that nothing in biology makes sense if not seen under the light of evolution. Even though some people might not believe it, I spend more time every day looking through the lens of evolution than the oculars of a microscope.

Currently working on: For my main project, I am investigating the role of TGF-b1 in memory. I am also investigating how adult-born neurons are integrated into memory circuits. I’m excited by any research relating memory to brain function.

Favorite paper: I see individual papers as little parts of the infinite puzzle of knowledge in neuroscience. I find it interesting how the pieces are assembled, and the scientists I think most highly of are those who continuously try to assemble the puzzle. For me to really like a paper, it needs to have a credible behavioural assessment paired with in-depth physiology that makes sense with the behaviour. A couple of my favorite recent papers are from Todd Sacktor’s group (Pestalcova et al., 2006, Science; Shema et al., 2007, Science), which show how the inhibition of a single protein can block an entire physiological process and impair memory retrieval. A fully integrative and revolutionary paper is the kind of paper that I like.

Why science? If I weren’t a scientist, I would be…Science was not a choice for me, because I’ve always been a scientist. I spent my early life questioning everything and performing experiments. I was always looking through a microscope or a telescope, trying to find whales, or collecting plants and butterflies. But I love to play piano and enjoy mastering difficult and impressive classical pieces, so if I wasn’t a scientist I could be a classical piano soloist. Or a full-time writer, but that wouldn’t be too different from my current way of life.

Interests outside the lab: I do a lot of writing outside the lab. I also like to play the piano and the Galician bagpipes, go to the movies, read books, grow carnivorous plants, walk my dog, and travel.

Favorite place in Toronto: My favorite place is the University of Toronto campus in the winter or very early spring. The neogothic buildings together with the snow-covered ground and flowering trees are an amazing combination. Unfortunately Toronto is not a city of highlights like Mexico City or Paris, but I like it and it is an amazing place to live.