Welcome to CienciaPR, an expert and resource network for all who are interested in science and Puerto Rico.
I grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in a family of non-scientists. I pursued an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, where I engaged in research onto the structure and function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Last year I completed a Ph.D. degree with Dr. Li-Huei Tsai at MIT. My dissertation work centered on examining the independent contributions of the Cdk5 activators p35 and the proteolytically generated p25, both in the context of neurodegeneration and synaptic plasticity. After completing my PhD, I was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences where I had the opportunity to learn about the intersection between science, politics, and policy. This wonderful opportunity allowed me to explore my broad interests in science policy and to gain a greater understanding of the US scientific enterprise and issues of higher education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. My postdoctoral research with Dr. Patrick Sullivan at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was focused on the pharmacogenetics of adverse drug reactions caused by antipsychotics. One project used RNA-seq to examine the transcriptional changes in mouse striatum upon chronic haloperidol exposure (Kim, YJ*, Giusti-Rodríguez*, et al, Mol Psych, 2016). Another project, involved behavioral phenotyping of 800+ mice from the genetically diverse Collaborative Cross (CC) mouse population (Giusti-Rodríguez et al, G3, 2020). These projects relied on team science and project management approaches, in which I mentored undergraduate students and laboratory technicians, and collaborated with multiple PIs and biostatisticians. In 2016 I was awarded a K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award which allowed me to implement genomics assays, such as chromatin conformation capture, for the in the aid of linking genetics to biological mechanisms.
I have broad training and interdisciplinary expertise that spans from neurobiology, to human genetics, and state-of-the-art approaches in functional genomics. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida. I have extensive expertise in methods for the analysis of 3D genome architecture and other functional genomics approaches, including short- and long-read RNA sequencing, single-cell RNA-seq, STARR-seq, and ATAC-seq. These projects have typically involved a suite of bioinformatics tools and emerging analytic approaches in machine learning of genomic data. I was a PI on a K01-Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award which allowed me to generate high-resolution chromatin interaction data from human brain using Hi-C and I have used these data to interpret and prioritize findings from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of psychiatric disorders. My work reflects the intersection between neuroscience and functional genomics, and aims to maximize the tools and techniques of these fields to advance our understanding of the genetics of neuropsychiatric disorders. I am co-founder/leader of the Latin American Genomics Consortium (LAGC), which aims to accelerate genetics research in Hispanic/Latinx populations and facilitate collaborations globally, particularly among Latin American countries and the United States. Currently, the LAGC has over 125 active members, representing Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, and Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. My lab’s research focuses on three major areas: 1. expanding our understanding of the genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders by increasing the number of research participants of non-European ancestry; 2. use functional genomics to gain mechanistic insight onto the role of the non-coding genome in the disease etiology of psychiatric disorders and to explore potential regulatory mechanisms; and 3. use neuroscience approaches to expand our biological understanding of psychiatric genetic findings.
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