I was born and raised in Ponce, a small beach town in the southern part of Puerto Rico – with constant access to nature in all its beauty. I grew up in a small farm where I became fascinated by the genetics of animal breeding. I started college at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and fell in love with life and the biochemical forces that shape everything that surrounds us.
I relocated to the USA and started my graduate education at North Carolina State University (NCSU) shortly after finishing my undergraduate degree. My initial journey focused on the cell biology of plant cells using live cell imaging, and completed a Master’s degree in the area of intracellular protein transport in Arabidopsis thaliana. I switched gears and my Ph.D. research with Dr. Barbara Sherry (also at NCSU) focused on understanding how different cardiac cells establish cell type-specific antiviral programs prior and during viral infections (see my Research tab).
Upon completion of my Ph.D. training, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Stanley Lemon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; where I continued my research on virus-host interactions as a postdoctoral fellow studying hepatitis A virus (HAV) cellular entry and egress. I then moved to the University of California, Davis to join a multi-disciplinary project under the mentoring of Dr. Priya Shah and Dr. Ben Montpetit at University of California, Davis aimed at understanding how different members of the Flaviviridae (e.g. Zika, Dengue, hepatitis C) hijack cell processes to facilitate their replication.
My goal? To inspire the next generation of professionals to become fascinated by life. Biology has been traditionally taught based primarily on textbooks; and most students are never introduced to current discoveries until too late. Classical science education curricula fails at introducing science as a continuously-evolving discipline and most students are rarely exposed to the diverse careers that exist within the scientific realm. I use Twitter (@NakedCapsid) as a platform to teach biology and engage with the community. I also founded #UniqueScientists to show the world that scientists come in many flavors and that diversity should be not only accepted, but celebrated.
My advice to you? Be open-minded and flexible. Sometimes life pulls you in ways you never imagined and letting yourself go every now and then can be extremely rewarding.
Personal Fun Facts? I am a huge fan of tattoos, love long-distance running, I am working towards becoming a NASM certified personal trainer, nature is my passion, I was the only non-Christian student at my alma mater, I have eaten a whole pack of oreos cookies in one sitting, and absolutely adore dogs (I am the proud dad of five of rescue mutts).
For more info, see my recent interview with eLife!