Marissa Vera smiles in an office.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Marissa Vera

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Marissa Vera describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Marissa Vera is a second-year graduate student who comes to MIT from Laredo, Texas. As a researcher in the Kiessling lab, Marissa works to understand host-microbe interactions. Microbial glycans and host immune lectins, which are glycan-binding proteins, are at the host-microbe interface. The researchers hope to better understand how microbes are recognized and distinguished by the host immune system. Marissa chose to pursue her PhD because she loves the challenge of asking and answering new questions and hopefully have a positive impact on human health.
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Marissa shares her three favorite fictional characters, the person who’s impressed her the most with their accomplishments, small things that improve her day, and more!
  1. What is special about the place you grew up?
    I was born and raised in Laredo, a city on the Texas-Mexico border, and because of that, I was surrounded by my people and my culture. The community and culture is so vibrant and unique – there are few places like it.
  2. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
    I’d love to take my family to Mexico City.
  3. Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
    My mom – I remember being in high school and seeing her go back to school. She’d spend hours on classwork after working a full-time job and raising my sister and I on her own. I’m so proud of her, and she’s definitely my role model.
  4. What are your top three favorite movies?
    Ya No Estoy Aquí, Hereditary, and Lilo & Stitch
  5. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
    Elden Ring. It’s a masterpiece.
  6. Who would be in the lineup for your ideal music festival?
    Eslabón Armado, Peso Pluma, DannyLux, Cuco, Kali Uchis
  7. If you were given five million dollars to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
    I’d open a museum that tells the history of the bordertowns along the Rio Grande. There’s so much history that’s not taught.
  8. If you had an app that showed three stats about any person you looked at, what three stats would you want it to show?
    A mood status bar,  friendship compatibility meter, and political compass coordinates
  9. Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?
    Tony Soprano, Yami Sukehiro, and Gengar.
  10. Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
    My sister. We’d be able to talk and laugh for as long as it takes to be rescued.
  11. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Evening walks, hot chocolate, and facetiming friends!
  12. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
    Probably watch art horror films or all of my dog’s quirks.
  13. What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
    Toilet paper!!!
  14. What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
    Decorating with knick knacks. I just think small things are so cute that I can’t stop buying them.
  15. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    I’d want to working at a non-profit to increase college access.
  16. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    La caída de Edgar. It’s a classic.
  17. What food do you crave most often?
    Whataburger burgers! They’re one of the things I miss most from Texas.
  18. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
    I’ve always wanted to get into working with stained glass!
  19. If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
    My dog’s frito paws.
  20. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    I went to Puerto Rico after my 2nd year qualifying exam with 2 friends. I’ve never seen such beautiful beaches, and I got to try amazing food!

Many thanks to Marissa for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come.