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For career achievements, add cloning a membrane protein to the list

Victoria Esser, Ph.D. header

Victoria Esser, Ph.D., finds that her work brings an opportunity to learn something new every day – “not only about science, but also about life.”

She joined UT Southwestern as a postdoctoral fellow in Molecular Genetics in 1986, later moving to Internal Medicine and eventually to her current role in Biophysics. Working in different labs has enabled her to grow as a scientist, she says.

Her current research in the lab of Jose Rizo-Rey, Ph.D., Professor of Biophysics, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology, focuses on “understanding how neurons communicate in real time,” exploring the tightly controlled series of interactions that trigger their signals.

Co-workers appreciate Dr. Esser’s ability to bring people together and foster an environment of collaboration. In turn, she says she’s energized by observing her colleagues’ hard work throughout the day. She credits her success to perseverance: “I don’t give up when things don’t work.”

Dr. Esser’s career highlights include cloning carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A), a membrane protein that connects carnitine to long-chain fatty acids so they can enter mitochondria and be used to produce energy. CPT1A is associated with Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.

Away from the lab, Dr. Esser enjoys spending time with her dogs, both “foster failures”: Clyde, a Lab mix; and Havoc, an aptly named German shepherd. She brought home her first dog, Tiger, in 2003: “He was so good and intelligent that it opened my heart to other dogs.” Dr. Esser also enjoys cooking and gardening.

In 1989, she connected with La Casa de España, an organization focused on sharing the culture of Spain in Dallas-Fort Worth. For the last three years, Dr. Esser has served as the group’s President, and has been a longtime member of its Board of Directors.

Dr. Esser cherishes the enriching interactions she’s had at UTSW with people from all over the world. “I would never have dreamed of meeting so many intelligent and fascinating people.

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