Student Spotlight: Patrick Cervantes

Headshot: Patrick CervantesHometown:

Rochester, Minnesota

Year entered CMB program:



Laura Knoll Lab


Brief Summary of Research:

I study host-pathogen interactions of the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. My research uses mice to model oral infection and study host immune responses in the small intestine.

Awards and Publications:

Awards: NSF-GRFP, Parasite and Vector Biology Training Grant, The National GEM Consortium Fellowship, Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholar

Publications: Contreras-Galindo R, Fischer S, Saha AK, Lundy JD, Cervantes P.W., Mourad M, Wang C, Qian B, Dai M, Meng F, Chinnaiyan A, Omenn GS, Kaplan MH, Markovitz DM. (2017) Rapid molecular assays to study centromere genomics. Genome Biology 12, 2040-2049. Pittman, K.J., Cervantes, P.W., and Knoll, K.J. (2016) Z-DNA binding protein mediates host control of Toxoplasma gondii infection. Infection and Immunity 84, 3063-3070. Zahn J, Kaplan MH, Fischer S, Dai M, Meng F, Saha AK, Cervantes P, Chan SM, Dube D, Omenn GS, Markovitz DM, Contreras-Galindo R. (2015) Expansion of a novel endogenous retrovirus throughout the pericentromeres of modern humans. Genome Biology 16:74.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school?

My experience as an undergraduate and post-baccalaureate researcher motivated me to attend graduate school. I found myself in a supportive environment that encouraged the pursuit of knowledge and higher education.

Why did you choose UW-Madison’s CMB Program?

The scope of research within CMB is why I chose to join the program. I was interested in a lot of different research areas and the opportunity to sample each one during rotations was really appealing. I also liked how CMB is focused on getting us started on our thesis project without an intensive course load.

What lessons have you learned throughout your graduate career so far?

“Between the banks of pain and pleasure the river of life flows. It is only when the mind refuses to flow with life, and gets stuck at the banks, that it becomes a problem.” -Nisargadatta Maharaj

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

Stress management and science communication are the biggest challenges that I have faced in graduate school. I have dealt with these challenges by learning meditation practices and effective communication skills through improv for scientists. UW-Madison offers free guided meditation classes as well as opportunities to take courses through the DELTA program that are focused on learning and communication.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I finished the Ironman Wisconsin race in 16 hours and 13 minutes.

When you are not in the lab, you are…….?

Reading fiction, learning to cook, and training my dogs Bruce and Milo

What is your favorite memory so far in the CMB Program?

The CMB student retreat is my favorite memory in the program. It’s an inclusive environment, and we have a lot of fun with team building games. It’s also really cool to learn about all the diverse research projects.