Walter Gonzalez

Degree: Ph.D. in Chemistry

College/School: College of Arts, Sciences & Education; School of Integrated Science & Humanity

Walter Gonzalez grew up in Argentina, and at just 5 years old, dreamed up his first robot out of aluminum cans he and his brother collected. At age 10, he tried extracting hydrogen from water based on instructions he found in his father’s old chemistry book. By 14, he was building small robots out of parts salvaged from old electronics and mechanical equipment.

His family immigrated to the United States two months before the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina. The move was difficult for 15-year-old Walter. He had no space or tools to build robots in his family’s small apartment. He graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in biophysics at FIU. He then set his sights on a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Under the guidance of Professor Jaroslava Miksovska, Walter studied protein interactions. His research provides a better understanding of the role neuronal calcium sensors play in Alzheimer’s disease, memory retention and one’s ability to feel pain. He is the first author of five peer-reviewed publications in top journals and has received two national awards for his research.

Walter takes pride in setting the example for his younger sister who graduated high school as valedictorian. He now understands the move to the U.S. was well worth it.

After graduation, Walter will conduct postdoctoral research in neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology. He wants to combine physics, chemistry, and biology to tackle some of the most challenging problems in neuroscience.