Growing up in Quito, Ecuador, Pablo Hollstein was passionate—and precise —about science from an early age. While his grammar school classmates were bringing half-dead seedlings for a class project, he was sharing pots of lentils and beans that had flourished so fantastically, no one believed he had nurtured the seeds himself.
That enthusiasm and talent for science carried through his undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard University and continue at Salk today where, as a research associate in Reuben Shaw’s lab, Hollstein studies LKB1, one of the most commonly mutated genes in lung cancer. In its normal state, LKB1 acts as a tumor suppressor that controls a crucial cellular metabolism process in response to nutrient and energy availability. This direct connection of the gene to cellular metabolism, first uncovered by the Shaw lab, points the way to potential new therapies. Hollstein and colleagues are endeavoring to better understand the functions of LKB1 to find out how to counter the loss of this gene in order to help treat lung cancer.
When he’s not at the bench, he works as chair of Salk’s Society of Research Fellows to enrich the lives of postdoctoral researchers on campus by planning and coordinating Institute seminars and mixers. Off campus, Hollstein likens himself to an urban explorer, driven to discover new cultural experiences, especially of the culinary kind. For one, he has always been an adventurous eater. Aside from supping on haggis (sheep stomach) and sea urchin, he was even game to try a bite of pungent, fermented fish—a Swedish delicacy called surströmming from one of his Salk lab mates. Alas, the substance had liquefied in the can and was beyond sampling.
A passionate mixologist, Hollstein humbly claims to have perfected the Dark N’ Stormy (a classic concoction of rum and ginger beer), which goes down quite smoothly after a meal of haggis or sea urchin.