Carlos Bustamante, Ph.D., Académico Correspondiente de la ANC.
Carlos J. Bustamante is a natural tinkerer, with a penchant as a child for taking apart and reconstructing toy cars, and building and launching rockets powered by explosive chemicals of his own concoction. Not much has changed. He still likes to tinker; only now he uses magnetic beads, atomic-force microscopes, and laser “tweezers” to explore the inner workings of the cell and the physical forces behind DNA replication.The young Bustamante’s scientific drive went into high gear when, as a teenager, he learned about Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the Spanish neuroscientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology for Medicine in 1906. Cajal’s work motivated him to buy his first chemistry set and microscope. He had found his “true calling.”
He obtained his Bachelors in Biology in 1973 from Cayetano Heredia University, in Lima, Peru, his hometown, then his Masters in Biochemistry, from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. In 1975, he was admitted to the Biophysics Graduate Program at the University of California, Berkeley, the same year he was named a Fulbright Scholar. After completing his PhD in Biophysics in 1981, he stayed on briefly at Berkeley for postdoc work before joining the faculty of the Chemistry Department at the University of New Mexico, in 1982.