Graduate student
University of Puerto Rico
Center of Environmental & Toxicological Research

As a graduate student I am involved in the area of Toxicology and Pharmacology. During my undergraduate formation I had several experiences across the field of academic, industry and government. I worked at Hewlett-Packard as a member of the Environmental Emergency Planning Response Department. This project provided the opportunity to become associated with people from the Industry as well as several governmental agencies (e.g. Environmental Quality Board). I learned to work with federals programs such as CAMEO, MARPLOT and AHLOA. The duties involved transportation of chemical substances, chemical dilutions and industrial emergency plans. Other duties incorporated suggestions from different industrial projects and inspection of every new route in chemicals transportation by trucks, working with SARA and Tier II, develop data graphs to evaluate the inventory and behavior of the people who are supposed to comply with the law. Moreover, during my undergraduate studies at the UPR of Mayaguez I research the improvement of water quality. I worked with Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) micro-particles to study their capacity in the removal of organochloride pollutants in water. The colloidal suspension of PDMS precipitates and retains organochloride pollutants. We obtained experience using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) for analytical purposes and monitor the concentration of the analyte in order to determine the PDMS efficiency as an adsorbent material. We improved the efficiency of this material catalyzing the degradation of the pollutant with inorganic salts. These results were presented at the American Chemical Society National Convention in San Francisco in 2010.

I also worked with the chaperon protein Hsp90. The project was related to the synthesis of chemically designed drugs to inhibit Hsp90 using natural’s models to predict structure. The functions of Hsp90 include assisting in protein folding, stabilizing various proteins such as steroid receptors, and aiding in protein degradation. It also stabilizes a number of proteins involved in tumor growth, which is why Hsp90 inhibitors are investigated as anti-cancer drugs. There are compounds in nature that could inhibit this protein, however many of these are extremely toxic since they react with other biological pathways. Therefore, our research involved the synthesis of compounds with structures called pirazoles, which could work as an inhibitors of this protein (Hsp90) and hence be able to follow protein processes in the presence and inhibition of this protein.

At the Public Health School of the University of Iowa I also participated in a summer internship program at the Toxicology Department. I worked with human liver metabolism of xenobiotic compounds. We studied enantioselective metabolism of hexachlorobiphenyl in human liver using isolated microsomes. I learned to isolate microsomes from liver tissues and use them for the metabolism of xenobiotics studies with subsequent extraction, gas chromatography analysis and reproduction of results. The results of this internship research were presented at the University of Iowa and at Ohio State University.

I am currently part of the PRoTECT team at University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus at the Center of Environmental and Toxicological Research. This is a superfund project, which involves the collection and analyses of biological samples from pregnant women, which include those having premature birth. The emphasis of these studies is to elucidate the environmental factor that could be associated with preterm birth. The study focuses on the effects of “phthalates residues” in Puerto Rican women. We also evaluate a number of xenobiotics in human tissues such as blood; urine, hair and eventually will determine placenta levels as well.