Santa Clara University

SCU Stories - SCU Stories

Santa Clara University

SCU Stories

Story in the College of Arts & Sciences

Islas photo

Ángel Islas

Associate Professor, Biology
At a glance:

Associate biology professor studies the causes of cancer and students lend a hand in this life-changing research.

Associate Professor of Biology Ángel Islas is working to better understand the causes of cancer. His research starts at the very basic level: in a cell's DNA, where damage to the fundamental nucleotide strands can lead to disease.

Professor Islas isolates certain enzymes, called DNA polymerases, to figure out how these molecules repair a broken DNA chain. Understanding how the polymerases restore a cell can help explain why some cells get sick and others stay healthy. "We think the polymerases create band-aids," Islas says. "They can rejoin the breakage on the fly."

Professor Islas is director of the biotechnology program at Santa Clara University and runs a research lab staffed by students and recent graduates. He says the students gain valuable experience in real-life science.

"In class, if you have a problem, you ask the professor. In the lab, you have to solve it yourself. You have to think critically. That's the power of science; you gain the ability to reduce problems to their constituent parts," Islas says.

Islas earned his doctorate at Stanford, did post-doc work at UCSF, and worked at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. But he's happy to be teaching at a smaller institution. "At larger places, there's inattention to students' troubles. I knew even in graduate school that I wanted to teach. I wanted to make sure I gave my students the best I could give, so I knew I was going to work at a small school," he says.

Watch a video about research in SCU's biology labs below.


Read more about Associate Professor Ángel Islas.
Read more stories in the arts and sciences.
Read more faculty and staff stories.
Return to SCU Stories homepage.

This text will be replaced