Interview with Juan Botas, PhD

Dr. Juan Botas talks about his research on Alzheimer's disease and what motivated him to become a scientist.

Learn more about the BrightFocus-funded research of Dr. Botas and his colleague, Dr. Huda Zoghbi.


Mfon: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us this evening. Please state your name and your institution.

Dr. Botas: My name is Dr. Botas and I am from the Neurological Research Institute, which is part of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. 

Mfon: That’s nice. What are you currently working on?

Dr. Botas: Of course I’m working on Alzheimer’s; that’s why I’m here—

Mfon: Indeed—

Dr. Botas: But I’m particularly interested in the relationship of Alzheimer’s with other neurodegenerative disorders, that are, might be less prevalent but equally terrible, and I’m trying to understand why focusing on Alzheimer’s where there might be common things, and also the relationship between Alzheimer’s and genes that are implicated in longevity. If you think about supercentenarians—why did those people never get Alzheimer’s? We’re trying to see if we can use that data to benefit our insight into Alzheimer’s.

Mfon: Alright, that’s interesting. So if you hadn’t become a scientist what do you think you would be doing?

Dr. Botas: I have no idea. 


Mfon: So your ultimate thing or calling is to be a scientist—


Dr. Botas: No I mean, I knew I wanted to be a scientist, I think if I was in a scientist I probably would have been implicated somehow in mentoring and education because I think that is such an important part of being a scientist and we need to improve how the public understands and learns about what science is about. 

Mfon: Right. That’s great. What has been your greatest day as a scientist?

Dr. Botas: No there have been many, many, many great days. Going back when I got my PhD, when I got my first job, when I got my first big grant—you know I can point a number of those. 

Mfon: Right, right. 

Dr. Botas: But you know, it is, the great day is every day that I am in the lab and I am talking to my colleagues, to my students, to my apostles. And we come out, we analyze the data and we come out with an idea, and then we develop a plan on how to test that. That, that is the great day. 

Mfon: Interesting that’s exciting, so that excitement of a breakthrough idea that’s—

Dr. Botas: I think at the end that is more important than getting a grant or something right?


Mfon: Right, right, the big days. Why did you become a scientist?

Dr. Botas: You look around there are so many beautiful things, so many mysteries that call on your curiosity. Where did all this diversity of life, how did that evolve, how genes control that, how—why is the sky blue? It’s curiosity that takes you there and then the more you get into it the more questions you ask. And the more you get into it the more you realize that investigating that is well worth it, whatever you are doing whether it is Alzheimer’s or whether it is something else. 

Mfon: Right that’s fascinating. Outside of the lab what do you do for fun?

Dr. Botas: I like to read. I like to read literature, I like music, and I like outdoor activities. For example I’ve been doing kitesurfing lately—


Mfon: Nice, I didn’t know there’s a thing as kitesurfing. How does that work?

Dr. Botas: So you get on a board, and you attach to a kite, and you ride the waves.


Mfon: Really! That’s fascinating!


That’s awesome— : When non-scientists ask what you do how would you answer them?

Dr. Botas: I mean that is easy because I work in Alzheimer’s and everybody knows somebody that unfortunately suffers from Alzheimer’s so it’s a very easy way to start the conversation. I work in Alzheimer’s, I try to understand how the brain works and what goes wrong in the brain in a disease like Alzheimer’s—that immediately helps. 

Mfon : Right, right. Well thank you for spending the time with us, it’s been great having you, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening. 

Dr. Botas: My pleasure. Thank you.


This content was first posted on: June 27, 2019
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