Francisco “Pancho” Fields, a Newton native, recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Ph.D.


He is the son of Martha and Frank Fields and the brother of Senior Airman Alfredo Fields, a graduate of Wichita State with a B.S. in Engineering Technology. He is the grandson of Cecilia Contreras and the late Alfred Fields. He attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and graduated as a valedictorian from Newton High School in 2010. He then attended Newman University the next fall as a Cardinal Newman Scholar. During his time at Newman University, he served as a senator and president of the Student Government Association. He was also active in the Theater and Music departments at Newman, having performed with the Newman Chorale and Troubadours, acting in several lead roles in plays and musicals, and serving as the captain of the Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe. In 2014, he graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Biology and minors in History and Theatre and was selected as a George Ablah Award recipient.


In 2014, he was accepted into the doctorate in Biological Sciences program at the University of Notre Dame. There he joined the lab of Shaun Lee, where his research goal was to understand how secreted bacterial peptides, known as bacteriocins, exert potent antimicrobial activities, and how to leverage this knowledge to design and develop a new generation of antibiotic compounds. The IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame recognized the novelty of this work and has filed patents regarding his research. His research has been published in Journal of Antibiotics (Nature Publishing Group) and Drug Discovery Research. Additionally, Pancho has lent his expertise on bacterial peptides as the lead author on a highly regarded review article on the discovery and design of peptide compounds from bacterial organisms which was published in Biochemical Pharmacology.


Pancho has presented his thesis research at numerous local and national conferences, and has received several awards and related fellowships for his work. Notably, he received a first-place award at the Chemistry-Biology-Biochemistry Interface (CBBI) Symposium for a best oral presentation. He has also received a capstone fellowship from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) the leading organization for microbiology research. For this scholarship, Pancho was the recipient of the National GEM Fellowship award, as well as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. He also received a CBBI Internship Award from the University of Notre Dame to be a visiting researcher in the lab of James Mason at King’s College London.