Research

 

I am interested in studying the nervous system and the organization of its basic components.  The synapse is the fundamental unit of function in the nervous system.  The specialized connections of a synapse facilitate information transfer from a neuron to a target cell.  Learning and memory formation, stress adaptation, drug addiction and withdrawal are but few examples of behavioral changes influenced in part by altering the strength of the synapse.

I completed my postdoctoral training with Dr. Konrad Zinsmaier at the University of Arizona.  There, we used the model system Drosophila or fruit fly, combined with a multidisciplinary approach to study molecular mechanisms that underlie synaptic function and hence, behavior.  Specifically, we used a combination of forward and reverse genetic techniques in order to understand the functional properties of the synapse.

Since I began teaching fulltime at Pima County Community College, my interest shifted to how we, humans, learn.  In the Pedagogy of Freedom, Paulo Freire recognized the necessity for shifting the role of the teacher from the disseminator of knowledge to a facilitator who designs the framework for students to construct knowledge.  I reasoned that in order to maximize my teaching efficacy, I need to better understand the neurobiology of learning and its implication on teaching and student learning.  My research focuses on examining the effect of different confounding variables on students' capacity for learning.  Specifically, I use psychometric and biometric tools to quantitatively and qualitatively study the relationships between stress, self-awareness, self-advocacy, emotional resilience, meta-awareness, and metacognition, and how these related to meaningful learning.