Héctor J. De Jesús-Cortés
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Award: National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship
Hector's passion for science was sparked when he won first prize in the regional scientific and engineering fair during high school in Puerto Rico. He found that he loved the scientific method and the field of neuroscience and decided to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, the premier university in Puerto Rico for basic research. Hector then won a NIH-funded Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) fellowship for undergraduates that allowed him to explore a laboratory environment in the field of neuroscience for almost three full years as he completed his bachelor’s degree. During those three years, his dedication to science only grew stronger.
“This experience reinforced my commitment to a career in basic science research, and I further refined my interests toward the fascinating field of neuroscience.”
His keen interest in neuroscience led him to apply to the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
“The Neuroscience program here at UT Southwestern has a unique combination of collaboration, creativity and internationally renowned researchers, which generates an ideal graduate training environment.”
And as he decided to pursue his Ph.D. here, Hector took notice of the opportunities for medically relevant research and the collaborative environment.
“With an ‘open-doors’ lab environment and faculty mentors devoted to their students’ success, UT Southwestern is producing future leaders in the scientific community. UT Southwestern offers particular strengths in translational research, which I hope to make the focus of my future career in science.”
Hector has been able to follow through on that goal as he selected the lab for his dissertation research.
“In my lab, I am currently applying genetic, biochemical and molecular techniques to characterize Cav1.2-deficient mice, a genetic model of anxiety in multiple forms of neuropsychiatric disease, including bipolar disorder and autism. My hope is that this work could help lay the groundwork for new treatment strategies for anxiety in these disorders.”
Hector is a contributing author on a paper published online in a Letter to the Editor in Molecular Psychiatry in June 2012 after finishing his first year of graduate school. (Lee et al. Forebrain elimination of cacna1c mediates anxiety-like behavior in mice. Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 5 June 2012; doi: 10.1038/mp.2012.71)