"Disciplina praesidium civitatis" - Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.
I was born and raised in north-central Texas. As a child I was interested in science and nature. I voraciously read everything I could about those subjects. However, as I grew, my interest in science waned. This was primarily a reflection of the fact-based transmission of scientific material as frequently taught in our society. By the time I arrived at college I had largely abandoned these early interests to pursue new interests in history and constitutional law. I began my college career at a local community college, where my interest in natural history was partially rekindled by exploring cultural anthropology and archaeology, but simultaneously I continued pursuing my interests in history and law. After two years I transferred to The University of Texas at Austin. Initially I double-majored in History and Anthropology. Soon thereafter I found myself disenfranchised with the lack of critical evaluation in history as a discipline and the lack of rigor in general anthropology. In late 2007 I took my first course in paleontology, Life Through Time, taught by Dr. Chris Bell. It was a fundamental transformation for me as an academic. I realized for the first time that scientific research, in particular natural sciences research, offered the rigor and critical evaluation that I desired in my life. I transitioned to a focus on physical anthropology and paleontological research. I completed my Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology in 2010.
Beginning in 2010, I undertook my Masters in Geosciences, at the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, under the supervision of Dr. Chris Bell. My work focused on the phylogenetics and evolutionary morphology of Cenozoic turtles. My work in turtles helped form my interests in evolutionary biology as they are expressed today. The morphology and evolutionary history of turtles, represents a unique system for advancing our understanding of evolutionary processes. I completed my Masters of Geosciences in 2013.
In 2014, I began my current studies on elucidating what are the evolutionary mechanisms that produce new morphologies in rodent lineages with the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History. I currently work with Dr. Kenneth Angielczyk (Supervisor, Field Museum) and Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo (Co-Supervisor, UChicago).
Beginning in July of 2015 - I began my role as a collaborator, developing ArcGIS and workflow protocols as well as museum-studies curriculum development and outreach on NSF CSRB grant - Critical infrastructure upgrades and expanded digital access to Non-vertebrate Paleontology Collections at the University of Texas at Austin. NSF proposal number 1458198; Requested amount: $495,880. With the UT Austin Non-Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory; PI (Ann Molineux), Co-PI (Rowan Martindale), and Collaborator (James Sprinkle).
I also maintain an active role within the broader academic community. I am particularly interested in improving and promoting minority participation within academia and biology/geology in general. For me diversity is an all-inclusive term to include historically recognized under-represented minority groups as well as representation of students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. As a Mexican-American Ph.D. student from an underprivileged socioeconomic background, I focus my interest on working with undergraduates and early-career graduate students, from all backgrounds, by providing guidance and support for working through the process of becoming a professional scientist and academic. I stood as an officer with the Multicultural Graduate Community at the University of Chicago (2015-2016).
In addition to minority participation, I work to serve professional scientific organizations. I am presently the graduate student representative for the Development Committee for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. To date I have helped fund raise over $150,000, the vast majority of that has been contributed to the Steven Cohen Award for Student Research. Starting in October of 2015 we named the first recipient of this award. At present the award is sufficiently funded to provide at least one annual reward into perpetuity. I continue to work with the committee to fund raise for this award our goal is to provide two annual rewards into perpetuity to support undergraduate and graduate research in vertebrate paleontology. I served previously as an elected Graduate Student Member on the Board of Directors for the Texas Academy of Science (2012-2013).
I am also a big fan of The Beatles, auto racing, cheesy action novels, the Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Longhorns Football.