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Science Journey - Seeing is Believing: Powerful Microscopes Help Us Discover Medicines in Nature

A young man with glasses smiling at the camera

David Delgadillo
Postdoctoral Scholar in Chemistry

About the Presentation

Chemistry • Medicine

Join Caltech postdoctoral scholar David Delgadillo for a presentation about curiosity and discovery. Like many, David sometimes took antibiotics when he was sick as a child. Growing up in an agricultural family, he also gave these medicines to farm animals. This sparked an insatiable desire to understand how seemingly invisible chemicals can dramatically cure illness. In his talk, David will explore how humans throughout history have harnessed the medicinal properties of plants. He will also introduce some of the devices scientists use to figure out the structure of the chemicals responsible for medicinal effects. Delving into his own research, David will share his discovery of a novel way to reveal new compounds in nature using a technique called electron diffraction—a method that can help us see the seemingly invisible.

About the Speaker

An old man wearing a cowboy hat holding the arm of a young child, also wearing a cowboy hat, who is touching a four-legged animal facing away from the camera.

David Delgadillo is a postdoctoral research fellow at Caltech, in the lab of Professor Hosea Nelson. His science journey began in the Los Angeles area, where he grew up in Bellflower and Hacienda Heights. Throughout his childhood, David was fortunate to have been immersed in nature by way of agriculture and through California's wonderful nature preserves. Although he did not know it at the time, his summers spent among cows and horses on his grandfather's farm in the mountains of Jalisco, Mexico, exposed him to the beautiful synergy between chemistry and life. The way antibiotics brought life back into sickly livestock always sparked his curiosity: "How can something that I can't see with my own eyes have such a dramatic and beneficial effect?" This curiosity extended to the way medicine affected humans and drove David to pursue a degree in human biology at UC Merced. He went on to obtain his PhD in organic chemistry at UC Santa Cruz under the supervision of Professor John MacMillian, where he studied antibiotic and anticancer compounds produced by bacteria in the ocean. Outside of his research, David enjoys being out in nature, including camping, hiking, or simply roaming through a local botanical garden.

About the Series

In Science Journeys, Caltech graduate students and postdoctoral scholars share their research to inspire scientific curiosity. Programs are designed for middle and high schoolers.

These programs are made possible through the generosity of the Friends of Beckman Auditorium.

If you have questions, please email Mary Herrera at

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