Originally from a small rural town in Puerto Rico, Paola graduated with a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. During her first years as an undergrad, she served as a research mentor to pre-college students at the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy conducting research in astronomy, physics, engineering, biology and chemistry. Half-way through her undergrad she conducted clinical research with a Neuropathologist at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School, which helped her define her interests toward pursuing a career in neuroscience research. During her last two years of undergrad, Paola was a fellow of an NIH BP-ENDURE Research Program at her institution, which provided training in Neuroscience for individuals of underrepresented and low-income backgrounds. She worked in identifying molecular and cellular mechanisms that promote nervous system regeneration in the sea cucumber H. glaberrima. In the Summer of her junior year, she participated in the Department of Molecular Biology and Lewis Sigler Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Princeton University as an intern. Under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Gavis, she worked on identifying the role of the canonical Wnt-pathway in regulating neuron morphology. Throughout her undergraduate degree, she led and participated on various initiatives to promote and increase diversity in STE(A)M.
Paola has now finished her first-year as a PhD student in the Yogev laboratory, studying the underlying mechanisms that regulate dendrite-specific pruning. In her free time, she enjoys game-nights with friends, going on a run, binge-watching series, taking a day or weekend trip to New York or Boston, and volunteering.