Assistant Professor of Biology
Areas of Expertise: Epigenetics, cancer epidemiology
I have been in a lab for as long as I can remember; my parents are both chemists. When we were not in the lab, we were fermenting and distilling at home. Science always felt like a part of me. I studied biochemistry at the University of Havana, Cuba, and experimented with biotechnology and molecular biology methods. I later came to New York and got my doctorate working in the intersection of molecular biology and public health. Being able to apply what I had learned in the lab to population studies was incredible. I developed markers that could be measured in biological tissues (biomarkers), such as blood, saliva and urine; and studied in association to disease states. The thing I have enjoyed the most has been to observe the growth of our field and the many applications we have for molecular biology today. The interconnections of all the new areas of research are mindblowing.
I expect to run the first epigenetics lab at John Jay. I want to investigate further how the epigenetic mark, DNA methylation, is regulated in cells and what role it might have in early steps of cancer development. These studies will be carried on cell culture systems with mammalian cells. We will look at expression of enzymes involved in DNA methylation maintenance (DNMTs) and those involved in processing of DNA methylation, TET family proteins. We will study genetics and protein expression of these, using cells derived from breast cancer patients from the New York Breast Cancer Family Registry. Results from these studies can be very helpful in elucidating which other molecular events mediate familial and sporadic breast cancer. In addition, we will use epigenetics in forensic sciences to determine the type of tissue in an unknown sample, all tissues have different epigenetic signatures and this can be very helpful in a forensic setting.