Dr. Robert W. Fernandez is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Oliver Hobert at Columbia University. He earned his associate’s degree in business administration at Union County College and bachelor’s degree in biotechnology at York College, City University of New York. He went on to complete his Ph.D. with Dr. Michael R. Koelle in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department at Yale University. His thesis work focused on mapping the cells that express each of the 26 small-molecule neurotransmitter GPCRs in the C. elegans egg-laying circuit and genetically analyze their function on egg-laying behavior. His work showed that individual neurons and epithelial cells express many distinct receptors. He also revealed that receptor knockouts show few egg-laying defects, suggesting receptors function redundantly yet increased receptor signaling through overexpression more efficiently reveals receptor functions.
He is also the cofounder of Científico Latino, a STEM organization that works to bolster the pipeline of underrepresented students in higher education in the sciences. In recognition of his work, Fernandez received awards such as the P.D. Soros Fellowship, Yale–Jefferson Public Service Award, selected as one of the 100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America, Yale–Jefferson Public Service Award and was featured in Forbes and Cell Voices. His current work focuses on how transcriptional programs regulate the development of neural circuits in C. elegans.