Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
My scientific intrests as a researcher were discovered late in my academic carrear. Originally, I wanted to study Veterinary Medicine, and was not able to fulfill that dream (yet). In addition, while being an undergraduate I was one of the victims of GPA elitism, thus did not qualify for the different research programs (although I was invited to participate in them and at the end my application was denied). Having that in mind, it was kind of difficult to pinpoint what I wanted to study to continue to pursuit my different intrests.
I studied an Associate Degree in Natural Science at the UPR-Bayamon and a Bachelor Degree in Biology at UPR-Cayey. As a plan B for Vet school, I completed a Masters in the Animal Industry program at the UPR-Mayagüez. The project I was involved in was a pilot study to determine the prevalence of certain swine respiratory diseases in Western Puerto Rican farms including Mycoplasma hyopneumonae, Pasteurella multocida, and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS). While on my masters I did an internship al Michigan State University (MSU), by being part of the DREAMS program, where I was involved in a project studing mineral metabolism in nursery pigs.
I was accepted at MSU's Animal Science Ph.D. program with a full scholarship. But before I could start my 4-year adventure, I went on a two month road trip, travelling from San Francisco, CA all the way down to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California (most of the trip was done in two VW vans) with 5 friends, in order to clear my mind, one of the best times of my life!
At MSU, I was involved in several projects and was able to discover my true passion with science: GENES!!! My research project was focused on determining the effects of high zinc diets and phytase on nursery pig performance, physiologiccal balance of nutrients, and gene expression effects on three main tissues the kidney, liver and small intestinal mucosa. I met my mentor, Dr. Cathy Ernst, a Molecular Geneticist that works on muscle biology from a genetics approach, she gave me the opportunity to truly understand and enjoy my passion for science. At MSU, I was able to present my research at local, national and international meetings, win fellowship awards, and am the only Puerto Rican woman (so far) to win the Americal Society for Animal Science Midwest Meetings Ph.D. Competition.
I completed my Ph.D. and returned to Puerto Rico ASAP! Three months after my arrival I became the mother of a beautiful girl, Andrea Inés...She's the best thing that has ever happened to me.
My first job as a Ph.D. scientist, was with Dr. Jannette Gavillán, at the UPR-Cayey Chemistry department. I was part of an NIH-RIMI grant that was awarded to the Cayey Campus. I organized and helped in the creation of a research lab for the investigation of medicinal plant extracts.
My second position was as the Associate Director of the Functional Genomics Research core (FGRc) at the UPR-RP. Along with the FGRc Director, Dr. Sandra Peña de Ortiz we offered services to the community at large including Laser Capture Microdissection, DNA Microarrays (catalog and customized), RNA extraction, ELISA, In situ hybridizations, and Real Time RT-PCR. I got to coordinate many functional genomics experiments in diverse fields of study ranging from nutrition to schizophrenia research. The diversity of my job its what made it so great! I got to do what I love, which is investigate gene expression and not only do it for my studies, but get to help other investigators in their projects.
My third position was as a Research Associate in Cell Signaling and Cancer Research. I investigate the role of natural compounds as breast cancer therapeutics studying signaling pathways at the gene and protein level. I was promoted to Assistant Professor and later to Associate Professor, and love the complexity of studying cancer research.
After securing my first grants I have dedicated my efforts in mentoring and advising students in research. I have been very fortunate to be able to work with undergrdaute, graduate and medical students who are very dedicated and compromised in learning. I am fascinated by the evolution students show, as well as how I evolve and grow with them.
I currently work on the investigation of natural therapeutics for Inflammatory Breast Cancer IBC. My research shows that Reishi mushroom has great potential for inhibiting IBC progression. I use nude and SCID mouse models of experimental metastasis, where these mice are injected with GFP and RFP tagged cancer cells, orally gavaged with the compounds and evaluated for cancer progression focusing on invasion and metastasis signal transduction pathways, microRNA regulation, epigenetics, functional genomics and some proteomic analysis.
Additional projects, coming soon!
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