January 26, 2017

Ignacio "Nacho" Tinoco

Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Ignacio “Nacho” Tinoco, who died at the age of 85 on November 15, 2016, was a biophysical chemist who devoted his life to the study of nucleic acids. In particular, Nacho pioneered in the field of RNA folding and made fundamental contributions to the understanding of RNA structure and function. In his more than 60 years in the College of Chemistry, he authored over 300 publications and mentored nearly five dozen Ph.D. students as well as dozens of postdocs who have gone on to prestigious positions in academia and industry around the world. As an educator, Nacho contributed two textbooks, Physical Chemistry, Principles and Applications in Biological Sciences (in five editions) and Physical Chemistry of Nucleic Acids, and several chapters of a book on single-molecule studies.

Two memorial videos have been posted in tribute to Nacho’s life and work, and they are now available for viewing:  either through his faculty page, or directly at https://youtu.be/BLhcZajlNGc and https://youtu.be/VJsnp4UDBUY.

The videos were created by Nacho’s wife, Bibiana Onoa, a research scientist in QB3 in the Bustamante lab. Bibiana would like to share this visual tribute to the breadth and depth of Nacho’s life and work. The first video includes pictures from the 2016 Tinoco Symposium on the occasion of his 85th birthday, and the second video  was shown at the symposium in his honor.

Bibiana, who joined the Tinoco lab in 1999 as a postdoc, has also offered to share the lessons she learned from Nacho on how to be a really good scientist. They are:

  • Always stick to the truth, be as transparent as you can possibly be.
  • Once you decide what to do, be consistent. 
  • Do not be afraid to ask, we are here to learn and there is always room for improvement.
  • Any big problem can be solved by breaking it down into smaller solvable ones.
  • Science can't afford competitors, only collaborators.
  • Share your ideas, they can always get better.
  • Communicate your findings as soon as you confirm them. 
  • You must be the one who is most excited about your work.
  • When bringing up a problem, offer also a possible solution(s).
  • Begin any new relationship by trusting yourself and the intentions of others.
  • Take pleasure in each one of your accomplishments regardless of its magnitude, and always celebrate them. 
  • It is always more rewarding when you are generous.
  • Try to be the best in whatever you choose to be.
  • To validate your theory, you should also be able to disprove it.