Researcher Spotlight : Mauro Pazmino

Published: 8 February 2019

This week, Jenni McIntyre turns the Spotlight on First Year PhD Student Mauro Pazmino and finds out about how lasers could help with mosquito vector control programs...

Mauro Pazmino is an interdisciplinary first year PhD student. Originally a biotechnology engineer, he is now studying the use of optical devices for mosquito surveillance. He is hoping to use Quantum Cascade Lasers to differentiate between different traits and so improve the efficiency of vector control programs…

Mauro Pazino 01‌‌‌Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
My undergrad was in biotechnology engineering. After I finished it, and not knowing what to do, I somehow ended up working at the entomology department of the National Institute of Public Health Research in Ecuador doing mosquito ecology. That was a big detour from my biotech background but I really liked it. Then I went to Keele University to do a master on speciation in Anopheles gambiae. Back in Ecuador, I spent a couple of years as a lecturer at various public universities. Finally, a friend who is doing his PhD at the Institute too, started his field work in Ecuador on mosquito ecology so I was hired as his research assistant. During that time, I got a LKAS scholarship to do a PhD in Glasgow and here I am!  

What is the focus of your research and why is it important?
My research focuses on the use of optical devices for mosquito surveillance. Optical devices, such as lasers, can give us information that can be used to identify interesting biological traits. These traits can be ‘age’, ‘infection status’, ‘insecticide resistant’, ‘species’ and so on. Therefore, my main goal is being able to use quantum cascade lasers as a source of midinfrared light to do spectroscopy in mosquitoes, and use that to discriminate between species, age, etc. This eventually will allow us to improve our methods for mosquito surveillance and make vector control programs more effective.

What has been the most positive aspect so far?
The most positive aspect has been the interdisciplinary nature of the project. I love learning from a variety of fields and collaborating with many groups. This can be intimidating too (more on that later).

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Two things: firstly, the interdisciplinary nature of the project. I’ve been swinging around between electronic engineering, chemistry and biology which can be daunting at first but the more time you spend on them the more familiar you get. It is just a matter of time. The second thing is being away from my wife. 

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering a PhD?

  • Find a topic you really like. It doesn’t need to be exactly what you want to do but the closer it is with your passion, the better.
  • Make sure your mind and your body are in the right place before starting because doing a PhD will take a lot from you, mentally and physically.
  • Always ask for help and I mean ALWAYS. From how to turn on a machine to how to deal with depression and anxiety.
  • Find a group of friends you can hang out with, travel and have fun with. This will make everything ten times easier.


Tell us about your plans for the future

Finish my PhD on time! I would like to continue working with optical devices and mosquito ecology, so finding a post doc in Europe would be nice. If not, I will go back to Ecuador and start a bakery business in a small town during the day and fight mosquito borne diseases during the night.

Mauro will be speaking about his work on Friday 15th February in Graham Kerr LT1. Come along and join in! His twitter name is @chinito_colapso.

First published: 8 February 2019