May 17, 2021
Walter Alvarado was born in South Central, Los Angeles, California. Before joining UChicago, he completed a master’s in physics at Cal State University, Long Beach. He has been a graduate student here for three years in the Department of Biophysical Sciences, where his research combines computational physics and machine learning to elucidate chromatin remodeling and epigenetic regulation. We interviewed Walter about his experiences below.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
The dual-mentorship program offered by the Biophysical Sciences Program at UChicago was a unique opportunity to work with two mentors and benefit from their experience and guidance. This gave me the freedom to explore my research interests with confidence.
Please describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was able to put my molecular modeling expertise to use and began to systematically investigate each of the proteins involved in the virus’s function. Our computational analysis helped elucidate how the drug Ebselen binds to SARS-CoV-2 and revealed a new vulnerability useful in developing new therapeutic strategies against COVID-19.
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom and lab?
I’ve recently picked up marathon running, which has been a challenging but deeply rewarding experience.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
I’m currently a student engineer at NASA. I plan to transition to permanent employment after graduation.
What support have you received at the UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
I’m surrounded by smart and driven graduate students, professors with exciting research projects, and a staff committed to doing the best they can to help students succeed. This environment has pushed me to be better professionally and personally.
If you were speaking to someone who wants to learn about UChicago, what would you tell them?
There are a myriad of resources to help you succeed. The experience is what you make of it. Also, it gets cold in the winter. Bring a coat.
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
Grit is a common learned trait for people growing up in South Central. Tenacity and persistence were instrumental in my development as an aspiring scientist and gave me the confidence to overcome the recurrent challenges of interdisciplinary research, such as studying and digesting concepts outside of my primary discipline and finding a common language to communicate with my peers and collaborators from other fields.