Changing Course to Lead in the Laboratory

Oct 11, 2022, 10:51 AM by Carlos Moreno

For Carlos S. Moreno, PhD, laboratory medicine was not his first career. But after a family member was diagnosed with cancer, he redirected to pursue cancer research. Now the Director of the Cancer Biology PhD Program at Emory University, Dr. Moreno shares his thoughts on diversity in the laboratory, and his hopes for his professional legacy.  

What does your heritage mean to you?  
My heritage means a lot to me, but it is a complicated and mixed one. It is a story of immigrants and of service. My parents immigrated to the US from Peru in 1954, 10 years before I was born. My father was an OB/GYN physician, and his father was also a physician. His family immigrated to Arequipa, Peru in the late 1700s from Spain. My mother’s family was a repeated story of people from the U.S. immigrating to Peru to marry their spouse (both her father and her grandmother did this), and many in her family were in military or diplomatic services. By the time I was born, the family focus was on assimilation, so English has always been my primary language. While I speak reasonable Spanish, it is not as fluent as I would like. Whenever I have visited Peru, I have felt strong family connections there, but I have also faced a language barrier that I would like to overcome. 

Why is diversity in leadership critical to the success of a laboratory?  
Diversity in leadership is critical because it allows for multiple points of view to be heard and leveraged.  The key to success in science is having an open mind, and diversity of perspectives helps with that. Bringing multiple approaches to tackle a problem can lead to new insights and help advance the field. 

Why did you pick the areas in which you focus in your professional life?
I started out as an aerospace engineer, but my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. That propelled me to redirect my career into cancer research.  My previous quantitative background allowed me to move into cancer genomics and bioinformatics research. I have always loved being on the frontiers of discovery.

What do you hope to leave as a legacy from your professional life? 
I would like to see that I have contributed to better outcomes for cancer patients. I also hope that I will have helped develop the careers of young scientists, trained them, and influenced them in a positive way. 

Read more Q&As from Hispanic and Latinx leaders in the laboratory here