Associate Researcher in the Holguin Lab, Department of Orthopedics
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
BS, Biomedical Engineering City College of New York

Who do you consider your mentors?
I am incredibly fortunate to have had Dr. Sarah Gullbrand as my first mentor, as she laid the foundations of my journey in orthopedic research. Under her guidance, I developed a deep passion for the field that continues to drive me. This fall, I am thrilled to be joining her lab for my PhD, where I aim to delve deeper into this fascinating area of study. Additionally, Dr. Nilsson Holguin has played a pivotal role in my growth as a scientist. Recognizing my potential, he provided unwavering support and encouragement, pushing me to excel beyond my expectations. His mentorship instilled in me a newfound confidence, prompting me to pursue graduate school much earlier than I had originally planned. I am grateful for the guidance of both mentors, whose influence has shaped my academic journey profoundly.

What is your specific area of interest in research?
My research interests include understanding the complex mechanisms that govern intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration to inform the development of tissue engineering techniques for disc regeneration. My goal is to understand the molecular, cellular, and biomechanical pathways involved in disc degeneration processes . In addition, I want to investigate the interplay between IVD degeneration and its implications on surrounding orthopedic tissues.

What are you currently working on?
Variants of SERPINA1 can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but co-morbidities include increased risk of vertebral fractures. My research entails understanding the role of serine protease inhibitor SERPINA1 in the homeostasis of the intervertebral disc and spinal structure using an animal model of serpinA1 deletion, coupled with human samples.

What has been the biggest challenge for you lately in your research?
Lately, my biggest challenge involves navigating through a vast dataset for analysis while ensuring I steer clear of bias. Simultaneously, I’m gearing up for the transition from associate researcher to PhD student, which presents its own set of hurdles, particularly in wrapping up ongoing projects within specified timeframes.

What projects are you looking forward to?
Our group is currently generating multiple animal models to investigate cell specific mechanisms by which serpinA1 is affecting the spine. I am excited to see how these different animal models contribute to the phenotype from the global knockout and if they send us down a completely new path.

What changes would you like to see in the future of the orthopedic research community?
I would love to see more interdisciplinary collaboration, integrating fields like biomechanics, genetics and materials science to advance orthopedic research. Additionally, focusing on personalized medicine and innovative technologies could lead to more tailored treatments for patients.

What do you like to do outside of your work?
I am a huge sports fan, so I enjoy playing and watching most sports. My favorites are soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, and tennis. I also enjoy travelling, watching movies and I dabble in carpentry when I have the time.

What is the last book you read?
I’m not an avid reader but I enjoy reading books related to my favorite shows or movies. The last book I read was “A Dance with Dragons” by George R. R. Martin.

What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
This may seem boring but my desk is riddled with post-its and papers that I scribble on from time to time.