MD Anderson Cancer Center - UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

AMBR SpotLIGHT: Ángel Garcés

November 15, 2018
Celso Catumbela, GSBS AMBR

The Association of Minority Biomedical Researchers will be featuring interviews with its members as a way to highlight GSBS students and life inside and outside of the lab. This feature will be posted on the group's website and Facebook page. AMBR’s third spotlight features an interview with GSBS Master’s Student Ángel Garcés conducted by AMBR Event Coordinator Celso Catumbela.

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As an avid runner, GSBS Master's student Ángel Garcés has completed several 5ks and marathons.

Running through life might be a metaphor most grad school students can identify with.

“All of it is in your head, you have to keep yourself looking forward to just make it through the next few minutes,” said GSBS Master’s student Ángel Garcés. “That mentality can’t be built up overnight; it’s built up over years”.

Ángel is undoubtedly qualified to give such advice, as his extensive cross-country background has allowed him to participate in multiple 5Ks and a half-marathon. In contrast, I am undoubtedly in need of such advice, as I typically only cover such distances via a teleportation circle during Dungeons & Dragons.

In addition to being a runner, his path to science will also likely resonate with many biomedical researchers. “A great mentor of mine at Rice University was diagnosed with stage IV malignant breast cancer and was getting treated at MD Anderson,” he said. “Though I’ve always been passionate about science, this event focused my attention towards cancer research.” 

Prior to succumbing to the disease, Ángel’s mentor not only saw his acceptance into the Graduate School, but also watched him develop into a 21st-century renaissance man not afraid to pursue new challenges.

 “As a sophomore at Rice, I saw some guys in a rap battle and I thought it looked fun and wanted to join,” said Ángel while holding back laughter. “I did terrible!”

Though most would see failure as precursor of one’s limits, Ángel instead saw it as an opportunity to improve.

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Ángel seen here showcasing his saxophone and rap prowess on the stage.

“I started practicing in secret, and in April of last year I released a song based off of a humorous outlook on being a wingman.” As fate would have it, the song grew in popularity at Rice and Ángel soon found himself being asked to perform at student-led events.

Although rap has been a recent venture, music has captivated Ángel since his early childhood. “I come from a traditional Mexican family, and my mom was always playing Latin-American music and a lot of Marc Anthony.”

“I didn’t listen to American music until probably middle school, which was also when I began playing the saxophone in band and listening to jazz,” said Ángel. Potentially, this wide spectrum of musical influences lead to his success in rap. In fact, he just wrapped his debut studio project and is excited for its release to his quickly growing audience. Interestingly, Ángel’s fanbase at Rice was further expanded through performances with the jazz fusion group, Steve Cox’s Beard.

A consequence of having diverse interests are the complex challenges that follow. In turn, Ángel has grown fond of meditation as a way of coping with the unpredictable aspects of life (i.e., multi-tasking between lab and musical interests).

“I love the introspective nature of meditation, which helps me with my concentration and focus,” said Ángel. “I’ve practiced the 4-7-8 breathing technique. While meditating, I think of a word that I want to represent my day, such as ‘happiness’ and allow that emotion to guide my steps throughout the day.”

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Ángel plays saxophone with a jazz fusion band. He also just finished his debut studio project featuring his rap stylings.

These inner monologues may perhaps hold the secret to his ability to embrace and overcome the trials that each day brings. Not surprisingly, Ángel’s successful ventures in and out of the lab have allowed him to develop a mindset that is eager to accept new challenges. His story is a reminder of the unpredictable feats we can accomplish the moment we choose to embrace the ebbs and flows of life.

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