I grew up in Puerto Rico. As a teenager, I spent my time skateboarding and playing soccer. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Puerto Rico. At college, I had my first research experience and decided to pursue a career in biological research. I went to UT-Southwestern in Texas to obtain a Ph.D. studying stem cell differentiation. I learned a bit about neuroscience in graduate school and got fascinated by neurodevelopment. Currently, I am particularly interested in how neuronal activity during nervous system development shapes circuit function and behavior for the entire life of the organism. My favorite aspect of research is to observe something in nature that no one else in humanity has seen before. Outside the lab, I continue to play soccer and like visiting friends and family around the U.S., Puerto Rico and Turkey.
Principal Investigator: Thomas Clandinin
Fellow: Brianna Garcia
The central question of my research is how innate behaviors form. In contrast to learned behaviors such as riding a bike, a baby knows how to suckle and feed as soon as being born. Such innate behaviors occur intrinsically, without learning by observing another animal. It turns out that embryos practice innate behaviors before they are born. This practice occurs spontaneously and is generated by a spontaneous, yet patterned, neuronal network activity (PaSNA). I am using a powerful genetic model organism, the fruit fly, to study how PaSNA emerges and how it shapes innate behaviors. I live-image and manipulate neuronal activity in the embryo and assess how this impacts innate behaviors using behavioral assays and computational analyses.