ADI Spotlight: Jorge Moreno

May 2, 2022

Jorge Moreno

Department: Molecular Biology
Program Year: G4
Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa
Hometown: Elsa, Texas
ADI Affiliations:

  • GSP Mentee (former)
  • GSP Mentor (former)
  • MolBio Scholar 2018


Tell us about your background.

I am originally from a small town in Texas, but spent much of my childhood traveling between states as my parents worked whatever crops were in season. We were a migrant worker family and moved between Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Iowa, and Texas, which meant that I went to multiple schools throughout the year. I eventually joined my parents and spent my summers working in corn fields. All of this made my educational journey more difficult, I couldn't participate in summer programs, was always fighting with administration about transferring credits in high school and made it difficult to participate in extracurricular groups because I would join the school late in the year.

Navigating multiple schools caused difficulties in different aspects of my life. One of the most difficult was convincing people I was capable of taking difficult coursework. Educators saw me as a temporary student so many times little attention was paid to myself and other migrant students. This had negative effects on many students. If the teachers didn’t care about them learning, why should they care? I was more demanding, I wanted to take AP course work and had to go above and beyond other students in my classes to “prove” I could succeed. This, along with having to stand up for myself in terms of being awarded credit for courses I had completed and passed, were issues that no high school student should have to face. However, these situations were critical learning experiences both for myself and the educators in the schools I attended.

Personally, I learned that in certain situations, when people look down on you or your perceived skills, attitude is critical to changing those perceptions and that no one will have your back like you will. Now I am the biggest believer in myself and in my abilities to accomplish tasks that seem almost impossible. In terms of the schools I went to, I am glad to have had a lasting impact. Those schools now have implemented very good migrant student programs and hired staff that take care of all the administrative issues—essentially fighting for the students to be able to take the courses they feel they can manage, participate in extracurriculars—and, more importantly, have worked hard to help students who struggle academically. These changes in attitude and support have led to the graduating of many migrant students from these schools who would otherwise not receive high school diplomas.


What are your research interests?  What excites you about it?

I am broadly interested in how novel and interesting morphological phenotypes evolve and are developmentally regulated. More specifically I want to understand how these morphological adaptations are reflected in changes to genome structure and organization. My research interests have mostly been guided by my desire to one day genetically engineer Pokémon for myself.


What does your family think you do in grad school?

My dad doesn't understand how I am still a student who isn't taking classes and is simultaneously working full time, yet has time to play Pokémon. My mom has a difficult time understanding how I can take vacation time whenever I want, but also can never take vacation time because idk when my experiments will need to be done.


How has ADI programming impacted you? 

ADI programming has helped me acclimate to Princeton. I was able to meet other students from both similar/very different backgrounds and make friends more easily. Also, I always get free food which keeps me happy.


What advice would you give prospective, incoming, and/or first year underrepresented Princeton graduate students?

My biggest piece of advice is to become aware of resources and important people within ADI that can be supportive and useful during your time at Princeton. Also get on the free food listserv ASAP.


What's been most helpful to you in acclimating to Princeton?

ADI events that have introduced me a community of people that are supportive.


What activities do you engage in beyond research?

I enjoy going on long bike rides, playing video games, hiking and camping.


What's your side hustle?

It would be twitch streaming Pokémon if it weren't for the fact that I have too much anxiety to actually twitch stream.


What is, or would be, your superpower?

My superpower, if I had one, would be the ability to teleport instantly to any location I would want, this would make visits to national parks very easy, fast, and cheap, and those are my happy places so I would go there all the time.


How would your friends describe you? 

Passionate, hardworking, kickass scientist, cracked at most things (Pokemon, cooking, dnd, being a good friend). -Actual friend of Jorge's


What book, show, podcast, game, song, or movie best reflects your grad school experience?

A song that best reflects my grad school experience is "Look How Far We’ve Come" by Quinn XCII, because it’s a bop. Most importantly, it reminds me to think about where young Jorge was and how years ago he wanted to be in this position whenever times get tough or my experiments don’t work. The fact that I am living those dreams, it makes me realize that I should be proud of myself, just like a younger version of me would.


What should the ADI community know about you?

I have three younger siblings and they are what I am most proud of in my life.

Being the eldest sibling, I took on quite a bit of the pressure immigrant parents place on their children. I was supposed to pursue medical or law school, always follow instructions, and do as my parents pleased. It was difficult to receive praise from my parents as they always wanted better. Although I somewhat understand their approach, it meant that for a large portion of my life, I sought validation from them. When I chose to pursue a PhD, I essentially broke free from them and what they wanted from me and I feel as though this gave my siblings the opportunity to pursue their desires instead of what my parents wanted for them. Today, my sister is a fantastic educator of the next generation and my younger brother a freshman at Princeton University. Having spent many late nights giving them advice from experience I had just gained and seeing them now pursuing and doing what makes them happy, they are my pride and joy.