Kiall Francis Suazo

Kiall Francis Suazo is from Malaybalay City, Philippines, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue his doctorate in chemistry and is a sixth-year graduate student advised by Professor Mark Distefano.

Coming from a small town in a developing country, Kiall said he was always curious about how things worked and just did not accept unsatisfying explanations on several phenomena that happened around him.

“I loved science and the idea of mixing chemicals to create something that would be useful,” said Kiall. “In fact, I dipped colored pens into water to generate colored solutions. Inspired by my favorite childhood cartoon character, Dexter, I would then pretend that they were chemicals and mix them to generate different colors. I was also lucky to have an excellent teacher in chemistry in high school. Although the lack of materials and lab ware impeded us in doing some basic chemistry reactions, she made me really interested in the field. I was eager to learn more and pursued it in college.”

Kiall’s research encompasses a class of proteins known as prenylated proteins. Many processes inside the cells rely on these kinds of proteins that mediate signaling pathways. When some of these proteins are mutated or dysfunctional, they can lead to diseases. He uses a technique called chemical proteomics to identify some of those proteins especially in disease systems and, hopefully, as the end goal, to identify those that can serve as targets to develop drugs for. 

He has multiple projects that involve looking at these proteins in Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), viral infections, and lung cancer, expanding his knowledge of biology, biological research, and biochemical assays and techniques. 

Through his experiences in the department’s doctorate program, Kiall said that he has honed his critical thinking skills in coming up with strategies to address challenges in conducting scientific research. He is planning to further harness his skills by pursuing post-doctoral work related to biology. 

“After that, I am hoping to eventually land a job in a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company to improve our currently available drugs and innovate new health-related products,” said Kiall.

An award-winning researcher, Kiall received the Newman and Lillian Bortnick Excellence Fellowship in Chemistry and is supported by a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. He also received a travel award from the American Chemical Society Division of Biological Chemistry to present multi-collaborative projects in New Orleans, LA.