I was born and raised in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. After I finished high school, I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign for my undergraduate education and received a B.S. in Microbiology in 1990. I then ventured to the University of California Santa Cruz, where I received my M.A. in Biology in 1992. After UCSC, I worked as a cellular immunologist for the Gene Therapy Division of Baxter Biotech in Irvine, CA. In 1994, I was accepted at Stanford University, where I received a Ph.D. in Immunology in 2002. Following my dreams, I moved to France with the help of a Pasteur Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, where I did my postdoctoral training in the Department of Immunology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Currently, I'm an Assistant Professor at the newly formed University of California campus in Merced. I'm now teaching Microbiology, Biology of Superheroes, and doing research in blood stem cells.
Stem cells give rise and maintain many tissues. During its life, a stem cell can follow one of three fates: 1) it can self-renew, preserving a constant pool of stem cells in the tissue, 2) it can differentiate into different cell types, or 3) it can die. Signals from the environment, either from other cells or soluble factors, can activate a genetic program within the stem cell, inducing its differentiation into a particular cell type. The activation of a genetic program is mirrored by the silencing of other alternative genetic programs. In this way, the stem cell reaches a point where it is irreversibly committed to a particular cell fate. Using the hematopoietic stem cell as a model, my lab studies the microenvironmental and genetic signals required for stem cell function and lymphocyte development. In particular, we are interested in the role of the transcription factor GATA-3 in the commitment and differentiation of stem cells into T cells.