I attended the graduate program at UNTHSC in Fort worth Texas in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Gonzales. I aimed to understand the function of an inhibitory receptor expressed in the retina (the GABA-A ρ receptor), highly implicated in diabetic retinopathy, the number one cause of blindness in the world. Using electrical recordings from individual neurons (whole cell electrophysiology), and modeling, I mutated specific parts of the receptor and identified a previously undiscovered binding site that interacted with a class of drugs including the diuretic amiloride. This work suggested that certain diuretics taken by diabetic patients could be responsible for their worsening eye problems. Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Einstein College of Medicine, and my research focuses on the cerebellum, specifically the beautiful cerebellar Purkinje cells and their contribution to ataxias, uncoordinated movement, and dystonias, co-contraction of agonist and antagonist muscles. In the near future I hope to establish a laboratory continuing this work, but also branching out to the contribution of the cerebellum to non-motor task, with an interest in intellectual developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.
There are two reasons why I wake up, the first of which goes back to that curiosity that was nurtured and allowed to blossom when I was a child. Even when times get disheartening, which sometimes it seems as if those are more than not, its that curiosity that keeps me coming back. Secondly, the potential to help people. I had opportunity to meet the patient whose mutation I am working with and just talking to her parents and interacting with such an amazing person really made me see why I go through the long hours and the long stints of negative data. It is all for the potential to improve someone’s life. The fact that my research could make someone’s life even the smallest bit better, keeps me going.
Outside of research, my passions are working out, baking, and scientific outreach. I am on the Board of The Swaliga Foundation, which uses music to interact with children ranging from elementary to high school age, to increase their interest in STEAM fields, and the KnowScience Foundation, which is devoted to the spreading knowledge to the public, combatting “fake news” and false facts through free seminars. I am also the co-founder of UNITY! (United Network of Interdisciplinary Thinkers, Yo!), which uses Peer Mentoring Circles (PMCs) to give BIPOC space to (1) constructively work through difficult circumstances and experiences, (2) support each other in our respective fields/profession, and (3) equip and encourage each other to thrive and (4) validate our presence in our chosen fields.
“Never give up on what you really want to do. This person with the big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts” -Albert Einstein
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela
“STEM is the past, the present, and the future. Everything we have been, are and will be is grounded in the scientific advances we have made as humans.” – Heather Snell