Jesse Garcia

Jesse Garcia


College of Natural and Social Sciences

Jesse Garcia Castillo has been fascinated by science for most of his life. As a child, he was captivated by astronomy books. When he grew older, his love for science shifted towards biology. It was during his high school years that microbiology caught his eye.

The 22-year-old Castillo, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology, is interested in understanding the human body at the microscopic level and studying specific proteins that cause disease. That, in turn, will help in developing therapies or alternative treatments for diseases that are currently not being controlled by medication, he says.

He admits that he used to be quite shy and didn’t have the best social skills. He was often afraid to speak up during class discussions. But he credits Cal State LA with helping him overcome his fears. His professors provided a nurturing environment that encouraged him to come out of his shell.

“I was able to develop my social skills," Castillo says. "And now I’m not afraid to ask or answer questions anymore, even if I’m wrong. Because that’s how you learn.”

His time at Cal State LA has provided ample research opportunities for which he is extremely grateful. Before doing lab work, he never imagined himself spending 12 hours in a single place and paying such close attention to every detail. Now, he loves research and cannot imagine doing anything else.

The work he’s done in the classroom and the lab has earned him several scholarships and special recognition, including a Merkin Honors Scholarship and a Howell-CSUPERB research scholarship, which involves participation in the annual California State University Biotechnology Symposium.

Last summer, he received a research internship at the California Institute of Technology. Currently, he works with Comprehensive Community Health Centers, where he is learning the different components necessary to maintain a clinic.

An Honors College student, Castillo is also involved in several extracurricular activities. As a member of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club, he helps promote the love of chemistry and reaches out to students who aren’t well acquainted with the subject. They also have a program called Terrific and Scientific, where they put on a magic show for elementary school students to show them science is fun and to encourage them to pursue a field in science.

He is also a member of Chicanos/Latinos for Community Medicine (CCM), which provides resources for local communities, such as health fairs that give basic medical care to low-income and undocumented people. This is a cause particularly close to his heart. As a former pre-med student, he still holds some interest in becoming a doctor due to the lack of representation in the medical field.

After graduation, Castillo plans to take a year off from school to spend more time with his family. He plans on applying to Ph.D. programs in molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. His main career goal is to perform transitional research that will lead to treatments for diseases that are currently without medications.

“There’s a lot of diseases that are reoccurring, and the [treatments] we have now aren't enough," he says. "So we have to take advantage of research innovation and interdisciplinary and cross-cultural remedies.”