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Headshot of Tina by photographer Olivia Wu

About Me


I’m a Latinx, non-binary (pronouns they/them) PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. I’m a member of the Lohmueller lab. My research reflects my interests in both genetics and improving graduate education. I’m particularly passionate about supporting marginalized groups in graduate education. I’m making it through graduate school with the support of my two cats Tuca and Jem.

Before Graduate School

I graduated from Duke in 2011 with a degree in Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology. During that time I focused on animal behavior and did research at the Duke Lemur Center. After graduation I was hired as a laboratory instructor at Duke for one of our foundational Biology classes – Intro to Molecular Biology.

At that point I already knew I loved teaching and biology, but that position won me over on the wonderous potential of molecular biology research. After five years and teaching 100’s of undergrads how use fundamental molecular tools, it was time for me to get some direct molecular research experience.

I returned to working with primates but now with humans and baboons. I joined the Tung Lab at Duke as a lab manager. I helped process some of the blood samples for the 40+ year running Amboseli Baboon Research Project. But my primary focus was a study in lab cultured human cells examining how an epigenetic mark of DNA methylation can influence gene expression. That work was published in eLife in 2018.

Through my work in the Tung Lab I was able to network and connect with a professor at UCLA and make the transition to graduate school. The most notable part of that process was being awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) fellowship. You can read more about my journey to graduate school in my three part blog post.

Outside of Graduate School

My most cherished hobby is board gaming. I love all kinds from party games like Code Names to hidden-role-ruin-your-friendships like Battlestar Galatica. I appreciate having artistic outlets like painting, primarily water colors and acrylics. When it comes to exercise my go-to workouts are high intensity interval training youtube videos and weight lifting. Lastly, I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy books, TV, and movies. One of my cats is named for my favorite author N.K. Jeminsin.

My two tabby cats Tuca (left) and Jem (right) curled up next to each other.