Unique Scientist: Dr. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez

Meet Dr. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez (She/Her)! Alexandra was born and raised in Puerto Rico and works at the University of California, Davis in the USA!


What kind of scientist are you?
I am a neurotoxicologist. Neurotoxicology = neuroscience (the study of the nervous system, such as the brain) + toxicology (the study of the adverse effects of chemical substances on the body). My research interest is geared towards understanding how environmental stressors contribute to brain changes that lead to neurological disease. Currently, as a postdoc, I am using zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a tool to characterize mutations that lead to epilepsy.

What made you want to become a scientist?
Unlike many other scientists, I didn’t think about becoming a scientist until I was in college. As a sophomore undergraduate student, I was inspired to know more about the brain when I learned that my father had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At that time I learned about the neuroscience field and after doing a summer research internship I decided that I was going to pursue a PhD in this area. Honestly, doing a summer internship allowed me to learn what a PhD was, that it was paid (at least the neuroscience PhD), and the program also gave me the confidence to know that I could pursue a PhD if that was what I wanted. 

“I am the first and only person in my family with a science degree and a PhD […] and I do not know other scientists from where I am from”

Dr. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I consider myself a #UniqueScientist because I am the first and only person in my family with a science degree and a PhD. I also come from a low-income background and I do not know other scientists from where I am from–Santurce, Puerto Rico (would love to meet some). 🙂

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am very passionate about science outreach and advocacy. Thus, I like to dedicate a lot of my time outside of the lab in designing and engaging in science outreach activities. Through science outreach, I’ve been able to share my knowledge in neuroscience/toxicology, become a better communicator, encourage others, and use it as motivation to keep going when I have difficult lab days. K-12 outreach is my favorite and the one that I have done the most. 

“Through science outreach, I’ve been able to share my knowledge in neuroscience/toxicology, become a better communicator, encourage others, and use it as motivation to keep going when I have difficult lab days.”

Dr. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would love to see research institutions implement mandatory mentoring and diversity training for faculty and anyone involved with trainees. This would allow for more diverse, supportive and healthy research/working environments. 

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My family, especially my mother, taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance and I would not be where I am today, as a Puerto Rican female scientist, if it wasn’t for them. They are my inspiration. 

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I successfully performed a brain electrophysiological recording from a zebrafish larvae (again after 1 year of not doing any recording!) and began mentoring our new summer research intern this week! 

#WomenInSTEM, #LatinasInSTEM #CienciaPuertoRico #CienciaBoricua #FirstGen

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