Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
I have been interested in science since I was a child. My first interest at an early age was astronomy. Later on in high school my science teacher encouraged me to study medicine. Aware of the long years of study ahead of me and determined to start my professional career I skipped my last year of high school and enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus. In Cayey I met great professors that were passionate about teaching science and persuaded me to do research. I joined the MBRS program and had my first research experience at the University of Illinois in Chicago. After this great experience I was convinced more than ever that research was a good option for me. I continued doing research at the Biochemistry department of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus with Dr. Barbara Zimmermman. After graduating from Cayey I worked at the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department of the University of Florida with Dr. Susan Frost as a research assistant. I received my Ph.D. in Anatomy from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus (Institute of Neurobiology). My mentor was Dr. Mark W. Miller. My thesis project involved the characterization of a bilateral pair of motor neurons (B67) in the feeding system of Aplysia californica. This work validated that the multitude of modulatory systems that are present in the feeding CPG of Aplysia should provide opportunities to explore relations between rhythmicity and synchrony in an exceptionally tractable neuronal network with well-understood behavioral functions. In 2007 I received a postdoctoral appointment at Emory University’s School of Medicine with Dr. Ray Dingledine. One of the goals of the laboratory I joined is the study of basic cellular and molecular mechanisms of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a family of neurological disorders characterized by the unpredictable but recurrent occurrence of seizures. Previous work demonstrated that prolonged status epilepticus (SE) results in neuronal death and the rapid induction of numerous mediators of inflammation including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2), eventually resulting in cognitive deficits, epilepsy and related functional disorders. My current project uses a conditional knockout mouse that lacks COX2 in the principal forebrain neurons as an innovative approach to determine whether the principal neurons of the hippocampus are the source of COX2 involved in neuro-pathologies observed after SE. I would like to understand the role of COX2 induction and its signaling pathways in the synaptic plasticity observed in the hippocampal network after SE. These studies will provide new information on the regulation of inhibitory synaptic plasticity in the normal and epileptic hippocampus. If interruption of SE-induced COX2 in neurons is found to be involved in the synaptic plasticity and/or selective neurodegeneration that occurs in the hippocampus after SE, these studies could lead to a strategy for interrupting epileptogenesis and impact the lives of those with epilepsy.
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