Skip to Main Content

#WhyICellBio by Paola Figueroa-Delgado

February 11, 2021
by Paola Figueroa-Delgado

How did you end up in the Cell Bio dept?

The Department of Cell Biology offers a strong curriculum and renowned faculty that study the basic mechanisms that contribute to life and cell function and integrity, whether that be the study of the nuclear or membrane composition or how vesicles are trafficked and how these mechanisms can go awry in disease. I, being interested in understanding neuronal specificity, found a research community that would aid my training during my Ph.D. to answer how the microtubule cytoskeleton contributes to neuronal remodeling.

How/When did you discover you like science?

I am unable to pinpoint the exact time I discovered I liked science. I can recall when I first discovered I liked research and particularly my field of study. I first conducted research at the Arecibo Observatory as a High School student in Puerto Rico. I was tasked with designing a space settlement that could be sustainable and hold human life for a prolonged time in free space (if you've seen Zenon, Wall-E or Elysium - those would be space settlements). I became fascinated with novel bioengineering methods and came across a paper by Cornell researchers that discussed using live cartilage to 3D print an ear (awesome, right?). I wanted to learn more as I moved on to college, so I enrolled in the Molecular and Cell Biology major at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras. During my first semester, I read Madeline Lancaster et al.'s work that discussed the induction of pluripotent stem cells to form brain organoids in vitro. This sparked a huge interest into neuronal structures and how neurons can achieve their specificity to form a complex organ such as the brain.

What is special about your lab culture?

In our lab we foster collaboration, whether that be by reviewing each other's grants or providing critical feedback on our data analysis. We also foster community and a sense of belonging amongst ourselves, which really helps when experiments fail.

What is your favorite Organelle/Macromolecule/method and why? (you can answer one or all!)

I really enjoy studying the microtubule cytoskeleton. It provides structural integrity to our cells and allows transport of molecules and even organelles. It's probably too 'on the nose' because I assume everyone's going to mention what they study.

What would you like to do if you had more free time?

If I had more free time, I would take courses on how to be a pastry chef. I would also enjoy traveling to learn more about different cultures and customs, and learn/taste diverse cuisines.

Submitted by Milind Singh on February 11, 2021