Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Grad Already Published Author

KINGSVILLE - May 20, 2010

Contact: Julie Navejar
julie.navejar@tamuk.edu or 361.593.2590

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Kingsville native Esteban Cantu has three scholarly publications, one pending

Esteban Cantu will graduate from Texas A&M University-Kingsville with the credentials of an established researcher. As he crosses the stages tomorrow, Friday, May 21, he has had three articles published in scholarly journals with a fourth pending. You might ask what doctoral degree he will be receiving or possibly what was the topic of his master’s thesis. You would be wrong on both counts; Cantu will be earning his bachelor’s degree in biology and just beginning an academic career that he hopes will bring him right back to the classroom.

Cantu is a 2006 graduate of H.M. King High School in Kingsville and the son of Estevan and Nelda Cantu. His father is in construction and his mother is a homemaker, but their son had his sights set on the world of academia and research from a young age. “When I was little I always wanted two things, a gentleman’s suit and a lab coat. I recently got a gentleman’s suit. I finally could afford it,” he said. He has had a lab coat for several years.

He has published three articles. The first was in 2008 when he published “Quantitative analysis of snake venoms using soluble polymer-based isotope labeling” in a journal called Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. His second was in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C. Toxicology and Pharmacology in 2009 and entitled “Venom variation in hemostasis of the southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri): Isolation of hellerase.”

His third publication, also in 2009 was in the journal Toxicon and entitled “cDNA cloning, expression and fibrin(ogen)olytic activity of two low-molecular weight snake venom metalloproteinases.”

Didn’t get all that? Most of Cantu’s research deals with the important biomedical applications of molecules found in snake venom such as their effects on hemostasis or blood clotting and how it could benefit stroke and heart attack victims.

“Publication is everything in research,” he said. “If you don’t publish you are not a researcher. Publishing is the way you share what you have learned with the rest of the research community.”

Cantu started working as an undergraduate researcher as a freshman at A&M-Kingsville and never looked back. He currently works hand-in-hand with the internationally known scientists at the university’s National Natural Toxins Research Center (NNTRC) looking at the properties of biomedically important molecules found in snake venom. He also is part of the Ronald McNair Scholars Program.

He is already gearing up to begin his graduate work at Texas A&M-Kingsville, but he will switch to chemistry. Cantu’s long range plans include a doctorate in biochemistry and/or molecular biology and his own lab and teaching career at a university where he can share his love of science with others. “I want to teach so I can get the future generations excited about science like I am.”

During his four years at A&M-Kingsville, Cantu has had a lot of great teachers and mentors but he did not want to pinpoint just one. “I have learned different things from different teachers. It would be too hard to pick just one.

“Doing research as an undergraduate is extremely important,” Cantu said. “It allows students to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it within their different fields of study. In the lab, I get to apply what I have learned on a daily basis.

“Undergraduate research is usually not done at a larger scale university, but I was able to be involved at a smaller school like Texas A&M-Kingsville. I had the opportunity to work with leaders in venom research like Dr. John Perez and Dr. Elda Sanchez.”

Although if you need to find Cantu, the lab at the NNTRC is probably the first place to look. That being said, he has other interests on campus as well. He has been a Presidential Ambassador for four years, representing the university and the Office of the President at hundreds of functions during his tenure. He also helps teach martial arts at the University Baptist Church in a program called Judo/Aikido for Jesus and has put in more than 300 volunteer hours as part of the Las Manos group at the John E. Conner Museum.

Although he graduated in the top 10 percent of his high school class, Cantu admits that he just missed being an honor graduate at A&M-Kingsville. “I probably spent too much time in the lab.”


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