Originally from Mexico City, I grew up in the Seattle area and completed my undergraduate degrees at the University of Washington. Through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute summer research internship at Harvard Medical School, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in microbiology. In that short summer in Dr. Matthew K. Waldor's lab mentored by Dr. Simon Ringaard, I spent hours at the microscope trying to understand how a bacterium (Vibrio parahaemolyticus) ensures that its offspring (daughter cells) each receive the ability to sense the chemicals around them (chemotaxis protein clusters).
With a newfound love for microbes, I went on to complete my PhD as an HHMI Gilliam Fellow in Dr. Karine Gibbs' lab at Harvard University, studying how a specific bacterium (Proteus mirabilis) is able to distinguish its genetic relatedness to its direct neighbor, being able to discriminate between a cell that is its "cousin" from one that is its "sibling".
I am fascinated by how organisms who cannot rely on senses or memory are able to differentiate self vs non-self at the molecular and cellular level and relay that information to different outputs. With that passion, I became a Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Christopher Johnston's lab, studying innate genetic defenses that bacteria utilize to recognize self vs non-self DNA. Bacteria use these systems to protect themselves from foreign nucleic acids, including human-made DNA (like plasmids). By applying synthetic microbiology techniques, we create tailor-made genetic toolkits to bypass these defenses. I aim to make such toolkits for a colorectal tumor-associated bacterium (Fusobacterium nucleatum) to study and understand its role in disease.
In addition to my postdoctoral work, I serve as a board member, community engagement committee chair, and education and outreach committee member for SoundBio Lab (DIY/Makerspace devoted to equitable access to the life sciences). I also previously served as a board member and community co-chair for Hutch United (internal Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center employee organization devoted to the support of marginalized and historically underrepresented scientists).
When I have free time, I am often enjoying time with my dogs, cheering on the Sounders/Seahawks/Huskies, or reading a good book.
EDUCATION & EXPERIENCE
Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Vaccines and Infectious Disease Division
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Johnston
PhD in Biochemistry
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellow
Thesis Title: "Molecular Mechanism for Targeting a Self-Identity Protein to the Type VI System in Proteus mirabilis"
Advisor: Dr. Karine Gibbs
Howard Hughes Medical Institute EXROP Intern
Harvard Medical School
Advisor: Dr. Matthew K. Waldor, Dr. Simon Ringgaard
B.S. Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology
University of Washington
Advisor: Dr. Merrill B. Hille
HONORS & AWARDS
Fellowships & Awards
Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
Interdisciplinary Training in Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (awarded but not accepted)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship (one of nine recipients)
American Society for Microbiology Travel Award
Simmons' Award (internal funding for use of Harvard University's Microscopy Facility)
Nomination for Peralta Prize (awarded to MCB student for best candidacy exam)
Ronal E. McNair Research Scholarship
American Society of Cell Biology Minority Affairs Committee Travel Award
Mary Gates Research Scholar
Teaching & Science Outreach
SoundBio Lab Teens Teaching Teens Mentor
GEMS (Girls in Engineering and Math) Mentor
Teaching Fellow for Harvard University Life Sciences Outreach Program
Teaching Fellow for Summer Explorations Program Harvard Ed Portal
Course Instructor, Clubes de Ciencia Bolivia
Teaching Fellow for Microbes in Disease & Environment (Instructor K.A. Gibbs)
Teaching Fellow for Life and Physical Sciences A (Instructors T. Brenner, G. Tucci)
SoundBio Lab Community Engagement Committee Chair
SoundBio Lab Education & Outreach Committee Member
SoundBio Lab Board Member
Hutch United Board Member | Community Committee Co-Chair