Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
In these days we have knowledge a mouse-click away. We have the power to understand most of the diseases that we could have, their pathology, their treatments, and their cure. Yes, cure. However we don’t. We have decided to let others choose for us treatments that do only that: treat. We treat our symptoms to feel better but not much more. Millions of people are trapped in their own bodies. What can be worse than your own body attacking you? You can’t go anywhere! However, you can learn to heal.
Three years ago, my gastroenterologist told me that he was sure that I have Autoimmune Hepatitis. He couldn’t diagnosed or treat it because I was pregnant. I remember him telling me that there was no cure and that no one knew the real causes. I was shocked but I couldn’t do anything more than wait. The months passed and I gave birth. I had to undergo hand surgery and that made me postpone the biopsy. When my son turned 12 months, my physical and mental health was worse than ever. No surprise since the liver is the filter of our bodies. I was so afraid of permanent consequences that I decided to make drastic nutritional changes. In only 3 months, I not only lost 30 lbs but also cured my liver. Now in my 30s I can say I’m the best version of myself. I am healthier both physically and mentally than I’ve being in years.
I wanted to learn more about the pathology of autoimmune and neurological diseases and that’s why after several years I pursued a master’s degree in Pathology. I want to keep growing my understanding of the connection between our gut and brain, the science behind my healing and spread it to the world. It’s time we change drugs for true healing food or supplements that nurtures our bodies and our minds. Most of my experienced is in Academia because I always thought that was the only way that I was able to unleash my mind and use my scientific knowledge to explore innovative hypothesis and help shape the future of science and medicine. But industry is changing and proving me wrong by allowing diverse scientists to come together and create breakthrough discoveries that will shape our future for better.
What qualifies me as a talented scientists? My academic, professional, and scientific experiences, which began in the 2004. That fall, I started working in the lab of Dr. Sandra Peña de Ortiz through the MBRS-RISE fellowship program at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (UPR-RP). There, we studied the cellular and molecular aspects of cognition. Two years later, in 2006, I co-authored a publication for “The Journal of Neuroscience” titled “An Inhibitor of DNA Recombination Processes Blocks Memory Consolidation, but not Reconsolidation, in Context Fear Conditioning”. In this publication, I contributed by determining whether the lack of memory was due to the inhibition of DNA recombination or to neurotoxicity. As a MBRS-RISE fellow, I had the opportunity to present my work at three scientific meetings: The Molecular and Cellular Cognition Society (MCCS) Conference, the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) Conference, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).
During the summers of 2007 and 2008 (in the 2007 as an Amgen fellow, and in the 2008 as a Leadership Alliance fellow), I participated in the Stanford Summer Research Program (SSRP). I worked in Dr. William Mobley’s lab under the mentorship of Dr. Ahmad Salehi at the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences in the Stanford University Medical School. Results from the research I performed in Dr. William Mobley’s lab suggest that mental retardation, like that encountered in Down Syndrome patients, could be due to a failure in the unilateral system of the hippocampus and on the norepinephrinergic system. This work is part of a publication that I co-authored in Science Translational Medicine, titled “Restoration of Norepinephrine-Modulated Contextual Memory in a Mouse Model of Down Syndrome”.
In 2007, I was not only awarded with the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) fellowship, but also, I received the Biotechnology Mentorship Initiative to Develop Scientist (BIOMINDS) fellowship from Amgen. As a MARC fellow I presented my work again at the SFN conference and at ABRCMS the following two years. The fellowships mentioned above had not only provided me these remarkable experiences, but they have offered the opportunity to assist and presents in local and national seminars, scientific meetings, abroad training, and much more.
I finished my undergraduate thesis titled “The Role of DNA Recombination Processes on Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity and on Remote Memory”. This research helped to establish DNA recombination as a molecular mechanism involved in structural synaptic plasticity for consolidation of important and long-lasting memories. As a side project for the BIOMINDS fellowship, I started a new project titled “Identifying Genes Potentially Regulated in the Hippocampus by DNA Recombination”. This research helped to elucidate the role of some target genes in memory consolidation and DNA recombination.
In 2009 I received my BS degree in Biology, I was accepted in the Biology Graduate Program at the UPR-RP, and I was awarded with the Puerto Rico Louis Stroke Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Program Fellowship. With it I had the opportunity to present my work at the Annual Best Practices Conference at Ponce PR in both 2009 and 2010, the Puerto Rico Interdisciplinary Scientific Meeting at Mayagüez PR in the 2010, at Bayamón PR in the 2011, the Transdisciplinary Scientific Meeting at San Juan PR in both 2010 and 2011, and the International Brain Research Organization World Congress of Neuroscience at Florence Italy in the 2011. In December 2009 I participated in the Winter School in Molecular and Cellular Cognition in Switzerland and in October 2010 I was sponsored by the Youth Travel Fund of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies to participate in the Venice Lecture Course in Molecular and Cellular Cognition in Italy. Finally, in 2011 I was awarded with the IDEA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence in Puerto Rico Fellowship and I was able to present in the MCCS and SFN Conferences both held at Washington DC in the 2011.
These grants covered my first three years of doctoral studies until May 2012. I applied for several grants to continue my graduate studies but none of them were granted to me. Since my only income was my graduate stipend, which ended, I had to take time off college to work. I spent a whole year working in different places; one of them was the Caribbean Cytopathologic Center of Puerto Rico. There I worked as a Pathologist’s Assistant in a temporary position applying techniques learned during all my years as a research assistant. I couldn’t keep the position because they needed someone with a degree in Pathology. This was the first time that I thought about pursuing a degree in Pathology, but it was impossible in Puerto Rico.
The next few years were years of ups and downs. I got married, moved from town (even from state), got pregnant twice and lost them both (incredibly traumatic), and tried different graduate programs (Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology and Clinical Social Work). It was a true roller coaster. I felt lost in every possible way. Would I change my past if I could? No! Everything I went through brought me to this moment. It was a rough path that made me the strong woman I’m today. Now, I’m still married and have a beautiful three-year-old rainbow boy. I’m currently living in Massachusetts and my husband is able to provide for us while I continue pursuing my professional dreams. This is the moment when I made the drastic nutritional changes that I wrote about previously. I was able to wean from medications that I took for more than 10 years and started feeling completely prepared to regain control of my professional life.
In September 2019, I started as both a student in the MS in Pathology and Laboratory Sciences program at BU and as a graduate research assistant at Dr. Tiffany Mellott’s lab. My master’s thesis project focuses on the effects of high choline nutrition during development on the hippocampal DNAm, gene expression, cognitive function, and neuropathology in aging Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) mice. Then SARS-CoV-2 happened, which changed our research plans and schedule. I’ll be able to put together a thesis on effects on cognitive function, the rest will be part of what we are certain is going to be a breakthrough publication.
I’m certainly not a typical scientist. I don’t have a 3.5+ GPA, I have a huge gap in my studies, I’m in my 30’s, I’m a mother and wife… Nonetheless, I want to demonstrate to the world that there’s NO obstacle to be the best you can be in the field that you love. I'm a scientist who is in love with research. Someone who is persistent, responsible, fully bilingual, and well trained in scientific research techniques. As a Puerto Rican (Hispanic/Latino), as a bilingual woman, as a loving mother, and as the first member of her entire family to pursue an advanced career, I give to any industry the diversity needed to demonstrate that there’s NO obstacle in life for pursuing your dreams.
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