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YBDIC Leadership Profiles


  • YBDIC Director

    BS, Drew University, 2021
    I (she/her) am a Neuroscience Ph.D. graduate student at Yale University. I study the sex differences underlying drug addiction's genetics, epigenetics, and neurobiology. Outside of academia, I work to amplify the voice of underrepresented groups of scientists. I serve as the Director for Yale BBS Diversity and Inclusion Collective (YBDIC). Check out my Website:
  • Chair of Engagement

    PhD Candidate, Genetics; Graduate Writing Lab Fellow, Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

    MPhil, Yale University, 2021; BS, University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla, 2018
    Yanixa is a Genetics PhD candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Mandar Muzumdar. Her thesis work focuses on dissecting molecular and phenotypical differences of KRAS variants in cancer using a multi-omits approach. She obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Biology with an emphasis in Genetics and Biomedicine from the University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla. As a recipient of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA F31 pre-doctoral fellowship, Yanixa works at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning as a Graduate Writing Lab (GWL) fellow, helping fellow graduate students navigate the fellowship application process. Her passion for providing equal access to health care and education, outreach and mentoring has driven her involvement with non-profit organizations such as HAVEN Free Clinic, New Haven Science Fair Program, and multiple student-based mentoring programs focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. She strongly believes that ensuring equal access to STEM opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds will allow them to reach their maximum potential, thrive in STEM, and successfully diversify the workforce.
  • Chair of Advancement

    BS (Hon), University of California, San Diego, 2021
    Jennifer is a doctoral student in the Department of Immunobiology, under the mentorship of Dr. Nikhil Joshi. Her current project is focused on understanding how cancer escapes the immune system during early-tumor development and through resistance to checkpoint blockade therapy. Specifically, how neoantigen heterogeneity amongst cancer cells impacts escape of T cell immunosurveillance. Her goal is to discover immunoediting pathways that tumors exploit to evade T cell control, identifying targets for the development of novel anti-cancer drugs. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Cell Biology with a minor in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), earning her degree with honors distinction. She started doing research in centrosome biology, studying mechanisms of cell division in C. elegans in the Oegema/Desai Lab during her undergrad at UCSD. Jennifer also completed a senior thesis project in Dr. Enfu Hui's lab, studying the structural components of the immune checkpoint molecule, PD-1. She gained an interest in biochemical techniques and intravital imaging through her undergraduate research experience. She is currently a trainee under the Yale Cancer Biology Training Grant for predoctoral students. She is also Chair of the Advancement Branch in the Yale Biological and Biomedical Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Collective (YBDIC). As a first-generation Mexican American scholar, Jennifer strives to empower historically-underrepresented students in science.
  • Engagement Fellow

    BS, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus, 2020
    Rebecca (she/her) was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She pursued her undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where she majored in Industrial Microbiology. In her home institution, she worked on screening for pathogenic aerosols in the biology department and identifying environmental fungal interactions with bromeliads. Now, Rebecca is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology Track of the BBS program. In Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak’s lab, she’s studying Acanthamoeba castellanii - Pseudomonas aeruginosa interactions. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys pottery and baking.
  • Outreach Fellow

    BS, Cornell University, 2015
    Born in NYC, I (he/him) have lived up and down the East Coast including nearby Branford for elementary school. I graduated from Cornell in 2015 where I pursued a degree in Biological Sciences concentrating in neurobiology/behavior. There I worked in the lab of David Smith studying the activity of hippocampus during memory retrieval and interference. I then spent 2 years at the NIH before coming here working in the lab of Chris McBain studying corelease of GABA and glutamate in VGluT3+ CCK interneurons in hippocampus. Currently I am a graduate student in the lab of Jess Cardin. Clinically I am interested in psychiatry, neurology, and pediatrics. Scientifically, I am generally interested in neuroscience from genes to behavior. Specifically I'm interested in the development and function of the various classes of cells in cortical circuits and their role in shaping information in the context of different behavioral states. In my spare time I play the piano, paddle on the Sound with Manu'iwa Outrigger in Milford, volunteer as a CASA, visit family, and read as many books as I can.
  • Advancement Fellow

    MSc, University of Oxford, 2019; BS, Florida State University, 2018
    Monique Pedroza (they/them) is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Genetics mentored by Dr. Berna Sözen. Their primary area of research is exploring inaccessible stages of early human embryogenesis using a stem cell-based platform. Prior to starting their PhD, Monique completed their master's degree in Clinical Embryology at the University of Oxford investigating left-right asymmetry in mammalian embryonic heart development with Dr. Shankar Srinivas. They then worked as a postbaccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health investigating RNA degradation in mouse oocyte development with Dr. Jurrien Dean. Monique earned their bachelor's degree in Biology and Spanish from Florida State University. At Yale, Monique is a recipient of the Lo Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Stem Cell Research.
  • Empowerment Fellow

    BS, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 2019
    Ray Vaca received his bachelors degree in neuroscience from UCLA in 2019. After graduation, he worked in the X. William Yang Laboratory at UCLA from 2019-2022, studying the pathogenesis of Huntington's and Alzheimer's Disease and also contributed to the lab's role in the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN). In 2022, he joined Yale University as a graduate student in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program (INP), where he was offered the Gruber Science Fellowship. He is completing his thesis work in the Shaul Yogev Laboratory in the Departments of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. His current research interests include the cellular mechanisms of psychedelic drugs, with a particular emphasis on how these drugs affect the neuronal cytoskeleton, using C. elegans as a model organism. Outside of the lab, Ray enjoys spending his time conducting outreach in the local New Haven community though INP Outreach, Brain Education Day, Yale STEM Mentors, and Yale Pathways to Science. Additionally, Ray is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion at Yale. He is on the executive board of the Yale BBS Diversity and Inclusion Collective (YBDIC), where he is the Chair of Empowerment, and serves on the DEI Committee for the Department of Neuroscience.