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On Campus

September 15, 2000 - VOL. 27, NO. 19

greek columnspacerArete: Angelica Cadavid


Rick Cherwitz and Sharan L. Daniel


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Editor's note: Arete is an ancient Greek word for virtue, describing the quest for individual excellence. In this regular feature of On Campus, the University salutes its graduate students — whose considerable contributions to the academy and larger community are truly virtuious. These features will be framed and posted in the lobby of the Office of Graduate Studies, Main 101.

spacerName: Angelica Cadavid
spacerHometown: Medellin, Colombia
spacerDepartment: Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology
spacerAdvisor: Janice A. Fischer
spacerDegrees: B.S., Molecular Biology, UT, 1994, summa cum laude; Ph.D., Molecular Biology, UT, 2000.

Angelica Cadavid's research on fruit flies with bad eyes may lead to greater understanding of eye development and, more generally, cell growth in humans and other animals.

Focusing on endocytosis, a process critical to cell viability, Cadavid discovered new information about its role in genetic communication. The next step, she said, is to find out why endocytosis works the way it does so that scientists may develop drugs or other interventions to prevent misinformation that leads to malformed cells of many kinds.

Speaking of her own work and recent human-genome breakthroughs, Cadavid explained, "We know the sequence. We know a lot about what happens. The challenge is to find out why it happens."

As an aspiring biologist in Colombia, Cadavid overcame obstacles with encouragement from family and teachers -- and with sheer excellence in her work.

Inspired by a teacher's introduction to genetics, she audited university biology classes as a high school student. One of the top 20 high school graduates in Colombia, Cadavid enrolled in the biology program at Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin, but extreme political unrest kept her from completing her studies. With demonstrations and violence continually disrupting classes, she finished only three semesters' work in three years.

Undeterred, Cadavid entered UT in 1990, where she gained invaluable experience in Professor Janice Fischer's laboratory. After graduation Cadavid landed a job with a research institute in Colombia, only to find the facilities inadequate and colleagues unreceptive to the expertise of "a young woman without a Ph.D.," as she put it.

Cadavid returned to UT to pursue an advanced degree. She became the first UT graduate student ever to win a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship, which pays all expenses for five years of study in genetics, microbiology, molecular biology or virology. Out of 1,535 competitors, she was among 28 award recipients.

Now seeking a research position in the private sector, Cadavid hopes to help find cures for diseases caused by "misdetermined cells" like those she studied. Her future work may address not only eye diseases but perhaps others like osteoporosis and arthritis. Separated from her family and homeland, Cadavid takes comfort in knowing that the results of her research will reach people all over the world, including those in Colombia.

NOTE: Nominations (including self-nominations) for ARETE should be sent to Associate Dean Richard Cherwitz at spaj737@uts.cc.utexas.edu


October 3, 2000
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