Dr. Daniel del Valle Morales

Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Biology.

Striving & Thriving at VCU talks to Dr. Morales about his favorite STEM memory, advice he would give to his younger self, his passion, and the best advice he's ever received.

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An interview with Dr. Morales 

Where were you born?

My father is originally from the United States and my mother is from Puerto Rico. I’m from Puerto Rico, I was born and raised there. I spent a good chunk of my early adulthood there and didn’t come to the United States until graduate school.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the STEM community?

The thing about STEM that I enjoy the most is that good science is good science no matter where it comes from. It’s not about who does it, it’s about who is capable of discovering it. Anyone in the world is capable of doing great work in STEM, great research in STEM, no matter who you are, where you come from, your background, etc. As long as you’re able to solve the mystery of science, you’re able to do it.

What has been a favorite moment within your STEM career?

I have two that come to mind. The first one is when I graduated from undergrad. The way that they had it set up was, they handed you the diploma, and every professor that taught you was lined up to congratulate you as you walked. That felt very good because you feel like you’re now at their position or very close to their level of knowledge. They’re kind of saying that you’re one of us now.


The second was when I won an honorable mention for an oral presentation that I gave at a scientific conference. That kind of reinforced that what I’m doing as a graduate student has meaning and that the scientific community is looking at what I’m doing. That kind of showed that I’m actually doing something good in the lab, it’s not just me failing over and over again, which is typical of a grad student. But that was a great feeling of accomplishment. That I’m accomplishing something with all that I’m doing in the lab.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You’re fine as is. Just be yourself. Don’t be afraid. I was always so self-conscious of who I was and what I liked because my small circle of people wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. So yes, you’re fine being who you are. Just be who you are, and you’ll succeed.

What has been your drive or passion?

My drive has been teaching others and seeing the fact that they understand the material. I love teaching. Throughout the years I’ve had different teaching opportunities. My favorite thing is when students see my last name and immediately start having a conversation with me in Spanish. They feel very comfortable seeing someone like them in a higher position. It’s that notion of being a role model that really drives me forward in STEM.

What is the best advice that you have ever received?

My coworker told me “You will fail at everything at least once, and that is okay.” That is normal, especially as a grad student.