Student Spotlight: Jose Martinez

Headshot Jose Martinez


Watsonville, CA

Year entered CMB program:



Anita Bhattacharyya Lab


Brief Summary of Research:

We work with human pluripotent stem cells (trisomy 21 iPSCs) to study different aspects of cortical development in Down Syndrome including interneuron development and the effects of oxidative stress on neuron function.

Awards and Publications:

University of Wisconsin Advanced Opportunities Fellowship 2018

CommSciCon Workshop Fellow 2019

2018 Society for Neuroscience Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA)

B. N. Flores, X. Li, Ahmed M. Malik, J. L. Martinez, Asim A. Beg and Sami J. Barmada. (2019). An Intramolecular Salt Bridge Linking TDP43 RNA Binding, Protein Stability, and TDP43-Dependent Neurodegeneration. Cell Reports, 27, 1133-1150. PMID: 31018129

H. Prior, L. P. MacConnachie, J. L. Martinez, G. Nicholl and A. A. Beg. (2018). A Rapid and Facile Pipeline for Generating Genomic Point Mutants in C. elegans using CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoproteins. JoVE57518.

M. A. Gonzalez, S. J. Carrington, N. L. Fry, J. L. Martinez and P. K. Mascharak. (2012). Syntheses, Structures and Properties of New Manganese Carbonyls as Photoactive CO-releasing Molecules (photoCORMs): Design Strategies that Lead to CO Photolability in the Visible Region. Inorg. Chem., 51, 11930-11940. PMID: 23088740

Why did you decide to attend graduate school?

After working out in the “real world” I decided that in order to have the impact I wanted, I needed to go back to graduate school. I am very interested in science policy and working in a government agency in the future. Gaining a PhD and a Masters in Public Affairs was the way I saw me accomplishing this goal.

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

The interdisciplinary approach to science and student support was what drew me to CMB. Being in a program that would foster my growth, allow me to explore different career options and created a inclusive community was important to me when it came to solidifying my permanent PhD Program.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

During the 2015-2016 Zika outbreak I was working as a health care administrator. As I was sitting in a meeting trying to figure out best practice protocols for patients coming in with exposure to Zika, I realized that as the only person with a science background I had a specific unique understanding of what was before us and was able to help create better informed policy. With this in mind, I was motivated to gain a stronger molecular science background and use this to help create better policies in science, healthcare and homeland security.

What is the best conference/seminar you have ever attended? Why?

I attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2019 meeting in DC, this by far has been the best I’ve attended. It was an international mix of individuals in fields ranging from hard science, to journalists, to policy makers and everyone had the intention on increasing science communication. It also allowed me to present my work to a broad audience in a Ted Talk style presentation.

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

The most important lesson I have learned thus far is to find the right mentor. Sometimes your original graduate program isn’t the best fit, but with right mentor and support you can find a new home. Your PI will help you through graduate school and having open communication is important.

What advice would you give to a student applying to graduate school?

When you are looking for graduate programs to apply to start by making a list of where you could live for 4-? years, then think about what specific things you value from current programs you are in, and finally make sure you cast a wide net. Don’t be afraid to email graduate students at the schools you are interested in; we are pretty willing to be pretty honest when answering questions.

What are your long-term career goals?

A long-term career goal for me personally is to work for agencies informing policy makers of relevant science. I’d love to work as a lifer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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

Personally as a first generation college graduate and minority student, I have struggled with both finding my voice as a scientist and believing that I belong here. Having a supportive network for friends, colleagues and mentors has been a great way to deal with this challenge. Every day that goes by, I start to realize that I am a great scientist (in training of course) and that I was accepted to UW because I do belong here.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I played the trombone for 12 years and can no longer hold a tune.

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

Probably at a coffee shop around town, playing tennis, doing some rock climbing, or riding my bike to different happy hours with friends.

What is the most fun part of your research?

Working with stem cells and differentiating them to neurons is AMAZING! Although I know the process, every time I get to see the end product still seems like magic.