Pheatured Scientist | 008

geenaphd008.jpg

Phuture Dr. Geena Ildefonso

Meet this week's pheatured scientist!

Geena is originally from Puerto Rico and grew up in Miami Fl. She attended the University of Central Florida as a first-generation college student where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. As an accepted scholar in the UCF McNair Scholars program, she was involved in 4 different undergraduate research projects ranging from plasma physics to abstract algebra and mathematical biology.

During her time in college, both her father and brother were diagnosed with cancer. Attending multiple doctor appointments with them got her interested in how chemotherapy and radiation worked, and why those were the chosen therapies for cancer patients. She became interested in how she could apply her mathematical knowledge to help advance the science field in understanding what exactly our cells are doing when we are given drugs, and how can we explore these different mechanisms to better design combination therapies and uncover off-target effects of drugs. 

Geena is a currently a second-year graduate student in the biochemistry department at Vanderbilt University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Carlos Lopez, her focus in on combining mathematics and biology to better understand the mechanisms of action that our cells take when they are stimulated by different drugs. Geena’s work focuses on developing and analyzing mathematical models to build mechanisms surrounding pathways in our body that lead to cell death and survival. She has also received the National Science Foundation Fellowship this year for the work she is doing in Dr. Lopez's lab!

Geena’s career goal is to become a Professor at an HBCU or undergraduate university, as well as direct a McNair program and mentor underrepresented students who also wish to attain a PhD like she did. Outside of lab Geena is involved in different organizations on campus (SACNAS, GSOCC, VAHS, VU-WiSE), and enjoys photography, cooking, relaxing, and watching TV!