Born and raised in Puerto Rico, to me the ocean view was as common as looking at the sky. While on the island, I did a B.Sc. in Microbiology and a M.Sc. in Biotechnology both in the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. My research focus was Bioprospecting Antibiotic Resistance in Functional Metagenomics Libraries in soil, and determining gene pathways that caused antibiotic resistance. There, I also taught a variety of different labs and classes to all sorts of students. I was always interested in an ecological perspective of the microbial world and wanted to return to the Island to obtain a faculty position to teach and do research. Being underwater seemed like part of my everyday life. I used to free dive and kayak at least once a week (a 5 minute drive to the reef) and wanted to enroll in a Ph.D. program that would let me understand the microorganisms and processes in the ocean. In a never-ending search for University programs, the Marine Science program at the University of Georgia seemed to be the most promising of all.
Right now I’m studying microbial interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria in the surface ocean carbon cycle under the guidance of Dr. Mary Ann Moran. I’m interested in understanding what metabolites are being exchanged between heterotrophic and autotrophic microorganisms and how diverse these are between different species of both phytoplankton and bacteria. This is done by studying gene expression of transporters in the bacteria and by collaborating with chemists at UGA and WHOI to analyze and characterize different metabolites in the co-cultures. By summing up both sets of data we can understand and characterize the flux of metabolites between species.
In my spare time I like to take photos, travel, do outdoor activities, and cook. As a “second career/hobby” I’ve worked on different photojournalism assignments on how anthropogenic factors impact the environment and help NGO’s in designing and running sustainable programs for communities in need.