Immigrant. Neuroscientist. Skater. Gamer.
My family and I immigrated to the U.S. border town of Calexico, California from Mexico when I was nine years old. I remember how the intimidation I felt trying to learn a new language in a short amount of time to keep up with schoolwork led to a growing fascination with the universal language of science. Despite my family’s financial hardship and institutional barriers as a result of my Title I schooling, I managed to pursue an undergraduate education at UC Berkeley fully funded by the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Since then, I find it difficult to name any aspect of my professional life that wasn’t influenced by my interest in the brain.
My background reflects a commitment to immerse myself in interdisciplinary neuroscience research as a future faculty member. During my undergraduate years, I used a combination of human brain stimulation techniques and computational approaches to investigate motor inhibitory mechanisms and the brain basis for multi-tasking performance. These experiences cemented my interests in incorporating computational methodology into my research career. In addition, I learned a great deal with regards to experimental design, data collection and large-scale brain signal analyses. More importantly, these experiences fostered an early interest in understanding how cognitive processes shape behavior, and as my coursework continued, I became increasingly interested in neurobiological disorders due to the potential impact of translational research on human patient populations. To this end, my postbaccalaureate research focused on using animal models of depression to validate the efficacy of novel anti-depressants and on investigating the detrimental effect of interictal spiking on epileptic patient’s ability to recall memories. My postbaccalaureate years thoroughly prepared me in both experimental and computational techniques that I I’ve applied throughout my doctoral research. For example, not only did I learn how to conduct surgical procedures and behavioral assays on animals, I also gained the programming skills necessary to develop a large-scale data analysis pipeline from scratch. Now that I am the Gremel lab, I have found a perfect fit for my career goal of investigating the neural circuit computations supporting complex behaviors, and how these may break down in the context of neurobiological disorders. By using a combination of computational and in vivo experimental techniques, my graduate work has focused on to 1) studying the neurobiology of decision-making processes controlling actions, and 2) assessing how alcohol dependence affects these decision-making processes.
My career goal is to be a leading scientist running an academic research laboratory that bridges experimental neurophysiology with computational theory. To accomplish this, my long-term research interests will focus on developing a thorough understanding of the neurobiology supporting fundamental decision-making processes, specifically in the context of psychopathologies where decision-making behavior is aberrant. My plan is to become an expert at behavioral, genetic, molecular and biological techniques, along with in vivo manipulations, calcium transient measurements, and electrophysiology, to generate large-scale, hypotheses-driven datasets from animal models of decision-making disorders