Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
My interest in science began as an undergraduate at UPR, where I was initially a Biotechnology major. Following university graduation, but prior to entering graduate school, I worked as the supervisor for the laboratory of Dr. Gregory Quirk, then at Ponce School of Medicine. Dr. Quirk’s main goal is to understand the brain circuits of fear inhibition, which is clinically applicable to treatments of anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. There I developed skills in several rodent behavioral techniques and was a part of world class behavioral neuroscience research. These experiences stimulated my interest in pursuing a doctoral degree in the Biomedical Sciences Program. For this reason, I started my graduate studies in the laboratory of Dr. James Porter at Ponce School of Medicine. My project combined the patch-clamp electrophysiology expertise of the Porter laboratory with my expertise in the behavioral analysis of fear extinction, to carry out a cellular analysis of extinction. The subject of my dissertation was the role of metabotropic glutamate receptor activation in synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic cortex induced by fear extinction. As part of my graduate work, I published two manuscripts in Neuropsychopharmacology and Journal of Neuroscience.
For my postdoctoral training, I wanted to gain experience in the neurobiology of addiction. Toward this, I began my postdoctoral training in Dr. Kathryn Reissner’s laboratory at UNC-CH. Here, I apply my expertise in behavioral, surgical, and electrophysiological approaches to investigate cellular adaptations subsequent to chronic cocaine use. Thus far I have found that the FDA-approved drug riluzole, decreases cue- and cocaine primed reinstatement and prevents the changes in excitability induced by cocaine self-administration and extinction in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) neurons. This research was published in Neuropsychopharmacology.
I plan to pursue a position where I may develop an independent research program focused on mechanisms of comorbidity between addiction and PTSD, and where I may provide scientific education to both university students and the greater community. I am interested in how candidate therapies, including exercise, influence cellular mechanisms of addiction and/or PTSD. As I am from Puerto Rico, I am interested in an independent position in Puerto Rico, therefore I accepted the Assistant Professor position at Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico. My long-term goals include providing academic, educational, and research opportunities to underrepresented groups. Also, I will organize outreach programs such as Brain Awareness Week for the local community to provide the tools to appreciate science and research. Doing this, I will achieve my goals of serving as a scientific role model, increasing the participation of Puerto Rican women in neuroscience research, and bringing further scientific knowledge to our society. In addition, I will establish networking connections, and collaborative research with other investigators from both Puerto Rico and the United States.
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