PhD candidate, Fourth Year
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico
What sparked your interest in your current field, and what do you love about it?
My undergraduate curriculum was heavily geared towards a job in industry as a Chemical Engineer. However, through summer research programs I had a taste of a variety of fields and specializations – biofuel production, cancer detection, antimicrobial resistance – which drove me to seek a more specialized education to tackle important challenges in biology and healthcare. My current work is motivated by the slow progress and inherent difficulties of early stages of drug development for nervous system disorders. I’m particularly enthusiastic about drawing techniques and ideas from a variety of seemingly disparate fields to come up with new strategies and platforms to study particularly complicated biological processes.
Personal research summary
The success of clinical trials of remyelinating therapies for progressive MS and other myelin pathologies has been hindered by the lack of credible preclinical models to advance the understanding of the physiology and pathology of the axon-myelin-glia unit, and identify drug targets with good predictability of clinical outcome. The processes that guide oligodendrocyte progenitor cell migration, differentiation and remyelination of compromised axons in the central nervous system arise from complex synergistic interactions between neurons, glia and the lesion microenvironment. However, these processes are studied under overly simplistic (2D dish) or overly complex (tissue slice) systems often with a trade-off between reproducibility and biochemomechanical accuracy and complexity. Further limitations arise from the use of rodent cells for the study of uniquely human disorders, due to the inaccessibility of human oligodendrocyte cells. My research takes advantage of additive manufacturing and induced cell pluripotency technologies to develop biofidelic models of disease microenvironments in vitro, and aims to bridge the gap between in vitro reproducibility, biochemomechanical accuracy, and clinical outcome.
I enjoy making the most of the short but beautiful Boston summers, watching TV shows (specially talent show auditions and quirky comedy series), and playing board games with friends.