Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we chat with Axel Hernandez Jr., senior scientist, AbbVie Bioresearch Center.
Skilled molecular scientist. Inspirational pre-K football coach. Multi-talented athlete. Dedicated family man. Is there nothing super-scientist Axel can’t do? Armed only with a lab coat and goggles, kryptonite itself couldn’t keep this man of steel from trying to help rescue those in need.
Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.
I fell in love with science when I was in the sixth grade. My history teacher would always read parts of books to our classroom. One book in particular really caught my attention: Jurassic Park. In the book, a scientist re-creates dinosaurs by using damaged dinosaur DNA isolated from mosquitoes trapped in amber. A geneticist then fills any missing gaps in the genetic code with compatible amphibian DNA. This is where I was first introduced to genetic engineering and the concept of cloning. I challenged my teacher to a one-on-one basketball game in which he would have to read the full book to the class if I won. Long story short … I won! After reading the entire book out loud to me and my classmates, our teacher did one better. He took us on a field trip to see the premiere of Jurassic Park in an actual movie theater. Let’s just say, mind officially blown!
If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say?
My 4-year-old son would say I wear a cool costume all day: a lab coat and goggles! My 7-year-old daughter would say I help people by trying to make new medicines.