Personalities Plus: Manuel Varela

Your name: Manuel Varela
Your job: Associate Professor of Biology at ENMU
Your age (and birth date): 41 years old, December 3, 1962
Your hometown: Santa Fe, NM
Occupation: University Professor and Scientist
Your family (spouse, children, names and ages): Wife, Ann (40 years old); Son, Timothy (10 years old), and Son, Edward (6 years old)

Your hobbies and groups you are involved with, volunteer work: Hobby: Reading non-fiction; I am a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); I volunteer in the Knights of Columbus.

What do you think of Portales?
“It’s a great, quiet, sleepy little town with friendly and thoughtful neighbors. It’s a very nice place to raise children. The sunsets are exquisite.”

What do you visualize your life being like in 10 years?
“I visualize teaching in the new Science building that had been approved 10 years earlier in 2004’s G.O. Bond (Issue B). Thank you for having voted in favor of it!”

Tell us about your parents:
“My mom is a retired nurse who now lives in her hometown of Roswell and who always encouraged my childhood passion for learning. My dad died at an early age, but he taught me many of life’s lessons that I might have learned the hard way otherwise.”

Who is your hero and why?
“Professor Hans Krebs, Nobel laureate in Chemistry (1953) who was an honest, hard-working and brilliant scientist (he narrowly escaped Nazi Germany) who changed the course of history because he discovered what happens chemically to food eaten by all living beings.”

What is your greatest hope?
“That all humankind would discover the joy and delight that comes with learning something completely new.”

If money were no object, what would you do to make the world a better place?
“I’d pay the tuition for everyone to get an education in their very favorite interest/ hobby/ subject/ life-long dream, and I’d pay to convert any untidy yard into a garden.”

Tell us about your greatest individual accomplishments:
“Earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry with honors, going to Harvard, and getting married to the nicest, kindest woman who ever lived.”

When you were a kid, what did you think you’d be doing as an adult?
“I thought I’d be an astronaut.”

If I could do anything, I would…
“Build a lab equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities to study ways to prevent infectious disease (caused by microbes) in humans.”

Tell us about a happy time:
“My wedding day and the days when my two little boys were born.”

What is your favorite TV show, past and present?
“Past: Nova and M*A*S*H. Present: Nova and Scientific American Frontiers.”

What is your favorite book and why?
“’The Right Stuff’ by Tom Wolfe, because it has suspense, intrigue, mystery, rocket-airplanes, spacecraft and incredible real-life human achievement.”

If you could be a superhero, what would your name and powers be?
“The Mighty Varela: Devourer of Rib-eyes and Destroyer of Pathogens (i.e., deadly microbes). My powers would be to invoke clear and no-nonsense thinking and good study skills.”

What’s your favorite smell?
“Frying bacon and freshly brewed coffee.”

What would you like printed on your gravestone?
“Dr. V. went home blessed by God with the best friends ever, a loving family and books.”

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
“Reading a fine book by a fireplace with a fresh cup of coffee, listening to J.S. Bach, and my family all about me telling me about stuff. And topping it off with huevos rancheros for dinner.”

What do you like about your job?
“I like lecturing on my favorite subject (scary microbes!) and composing scientific papers that might someday be published in a library.”

Tell us about your spouse:
“My wife, Ann, is very smart. She is an instructor of mathematics and seamstress of fine clothing. She enjoys gardening. She’s the best friend, wife, mommy, daughter, sister and teacher anyone could ever know.”

Tell about a time you were nervous:
“I was nervous many years ago when an airline flight of mine suddenly rolled sideways during a landing approach.”

If you could redo one moment in life, what would it be and why?
“I would have taken a different airplane flight one day. Also, I would redo the moment I had double-checked whether our wedding photographer had the film properly loaded in the camera. I would have tripled checked.”