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Dr. Felix E. Rivera-Mariani is an associate professor within the College of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches chemistry, biochemistry and immunology special topics. He earned a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he was recruited via a baseball scholarship. After completing his bachelor's degree, he worked briefly in the private sector before seeking a Ph.D. in microbiology at the School of Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico. During his Ph.D. studies, he characterized endemic allergens in the atmosphere of Puerto Rico that contributed to the incidence of chronic allergic respiratory diseases. Upon completing his Ph.D., Rivera-Mariani was recruited to a T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Public Health of the Johns Hopkins University to develop and implement human-based immunological approaches to identify and characterize respiratory health risks in inner-city environments. As a postdoc, he leveraged his research projects to build a strong interest and begin his trajectory as a mentor to the next generation of future scientists, particularly those from minority and underrepresented backgrounds. Rivera-Mariani further developed into an interdisciplinary scientist with training in data sciences (including genomic data sciences), bioinformatics, and systems biology from Johns Hopkins University, University of California-San Diego and Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.
Before joining Lynn University, Rivera-Mariani was the lead scientist at the University of Miami site of a multi-center project, Research on the Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 among Essential Response Personnel (RECOVER). Prior to the University of Miami, Rivera-Mariani was an assistant professor within the College of Biomedical Sciences at Larkin University, where he taught biochemistry, immunology and molecular genetics, and helped develop curricula within the M.S. in biomedical sciences program. At Larkin University, Rivera-Mariani was also a principal investigator of extramurally funded projects, including projects to study the respiratory health impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Currently, Rivera-Mariani's research interfaces biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, environmental health and computational approaches to identify biomarkers that can characterize adverse respiratory health risks, including exposure to pollutants from different chemical origins. Ongoing projects include collaborative efforts to characterize endemic atmospheric pollutants and identify their relationship with the incidence of emerging (e.g., COVID-19, RSV, Flu) and chronic respiratory diseases (allergy, asthma, COPD) in tropical and semi-tropical regions. His research and mentoring have led him to consulting opportunities in the private sector, ad-hoc appointments, and standing member appointments to study sessions within the National Institute of Health. He is also an active member of scientific organizations, including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the Society of Toxicology, the American Association of Immunologists, the American Society of Microbiology, and the International Society for Exposure Sciences, among others.
Rivera-Mariani's pillars for his teaching philosophy are to guide students to self-discover their intellectual capabilities by creating inclusive, equitable, psychologically safe, and transformative learning environments and to mentor through research. He firmly believes that students can self-discover their potential when validated, supported, and challenged. He believes that as educators, we must be aware of and counteract implicit biases that may hinder student learning and academic progress. Also, he sees it as essential to integrate students' experiences into the classroom. In his mentoring pillar, he values identifying the mentee's needs to equip them with skillsets, knowledge, and experiences that help them in their career, professional, personal, intellectual, and social well-being. In this line, he has founded science outreach initiatives for mentoring students and early-stage scientists.
RIIPLRT Institute: A Respiratory and Immunology Project and Laboratory Research Team (https://www.riplrt.com)
Vision: provide further insight into the immuno-physiological health effects that airborne pollutants of different chemical origins induce once they cross the human respiratory barrier among susceptible individuals such as people suffering from asthma, respiratory allergies, and other chronic respiratory conditions in a collaborative environment that fosters knowledge enrichment and self-discovery in the professional, personal, and academic aspects of the RIPLRT members, collaborators, mentees, and interns.
Mission: We seek to address our scientific questions by integrating human-based immuno-physiological approaches, molecular biology, and computational biology. Also, we will identify opportunities to collaborate, employ, and enhance our expertise in respiratory health, immunology, and data analytics. Lastly, implementing our core values, for example, inclusiveness, diversity, and integrity, will be essential in following our vision and mission.
Vistazo A La Ciencia / A Glance at the Science (https://www.vistazoalaciencia.com)
Vision: Eliminate barriers between science and society so that citizens can make decisions that contribute to their personal, intellectual, and social well-being.
Mission: Discuss current science topics with the general public through simple presentations and interviews with experts in the field, collaborate with other science communication groups, and encourage minority participation and mentoring in leadership efforts and science communication.
Endemic Outdoor Aeroallergens and the Incidence of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico
This study aims to determine the role of outdoor fungal spores, aeroallergens endemic in the atmosphere of Puerto Rico, in the incidence and immunological susceptibility to COVID-19 in Puerto Rico. Also, this project seeks to demonstrate the utility of an innovative blood microsample approach to determine immunological risks to emerging respiratory health pathogens, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The expected impact of this project is that it will provide data on immunological risks to emerging respiratory health hazards from exposures to endemic biological aerosol.
Project Number (and PI): PI Benjamín Bolaños-Rosero
Date: 2021 - Present
The RECOVER Project (Research on the Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 among Essential Response Personnel)
The RECOVER study aimed to achieve two key objectives: (1) assess the frequency of SARSCoV-2 infection, re-infection, and COVID-19 illness among healthcare workers, first responders, and essential or frontline workers, and (2) evaluate the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and interventions. The anticipated impact of this project was multifaceted. It aimed to measure COVID-19 incidence, identify risk factors for both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection, describe the symptomatology and outcomes of infection and re-infection, and assess healthcare utilization, immune response, and antibody correlates of protection against re-infection. Additionally, the study intended to determine the duration of viral shedding and evaluate knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to SARSCoV-2 and COVID-19.
Project Number (and PI): PI Alberto Cabán-Martínez
Amount Awarded: $3,950,000 (three-year funding)
Role: Lead Scientist and Co-Investigator
Date: 2020 - 2023
Immune and Epigenetic Signatures Related to Post-Hurricane Maria Indoor Contamination in Puerto Rico
This study aimed to identify immune and epigenetic profiles induced by indoor dust samples from flooded homes among Puerto Ricans who lived on the island compared to those who migrated before Hurricane Maria. We seek to identify the immune-epigenetic modulating potential of exposure to Hurricanes and their aftermath pollution.
Project Number (and PI): R25HL126140 (Multi-PI Joe Garcia, Francisco Moreno, Sairam Parthasarathy)
Amount Awarded: $14688 (Pilot Study under a training component of the R25HL126140)
Role: PI of Pilot Study
Date: 2019 - 2022
Linking Microbial, SVOC, and Pro-Inflammatory Exposures in Homes to Childhood Asthma Serverity: A Community Filter Forensics Approach
This project aimed to determine the relationship between urban homes’ characteristics, indoor microbiome, SVOC concentrations, and children’s asthma severity. We also wanted to assess the pro-inflammatory potential of HVAC filter dust and if a community-engaged approach could rapidly and economically assess home exposures and asthma-specific health outcomes in larger cohorts. The cohort consisted of urban homes (low-income and Hispanics) in Austin, TX, followed by a larger campaign of 200 low-income homes of children with asthma in different climate zones of the US.
Project Number: HUD FR-6200-N-15 (PI Kerry Kinney)
Role: Collaborator (PI of a Subaward to Larkin University, $77,000)
Taking a Breath After the Disaster: Homes, Molds, and Health in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
This interdisciplinary and collaborative project aimed to identify the factors affecting human health in the aftermath of a major atmospheric phenomenon, such as Hurricane Maria. We employed microbiome metagenomics, human-based immunological approaches, and community outreach strategies to address this purpose. The institutions collaborating on this project were the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Texas-Austin, and Larkin University.
Project Number: 5R21ES029762-02 (PI Humberto Cavallin)
Role: Collaborator (PI of a Sub-Award to Larkin University; $15,500)
Date: 2018 - 2022
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