Name: Mónica Alvarado Rojas.
Country: Costa Rica.
Mentor: Frederick P. Guengerich, Ph. D.
Hola!!! My name is Mónica Alvarado Rojas, I’m from Costa Rica. Prior to my research at Vanderbilt, I finished my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the Costa Rica University.
My previous experience includes working in labs at both university and a pharmaceutical company doing mainly in organic synthesis for different projects in Biology, Microbiology and Chemistry. These opportunities helped me to see that I love science and aspire to continue researching topics that solve human, environmental and industrial problems (maybe it sounds a cliché, but it is true).
For that reason, I applied to the VISRA program. It was a great opportunity to meet other researchers who are investigating advanced topics, and at the same time, applying the results into innovative products or solutions that will cover important needs.
In addition to the experience of independently living far from home in another culture, VISRA gave me the chance to grow professionally by learning new topics, using new equipment, techniques and strategies.
The laboratory in which I worked, run by Prof. F. Guengerich, is interested in the Cytochrome P450 family of enzymes. These enzymes are involved in metabolism of endogenous substrates, but are well known for their role in the activation and processing of xenobiotic compounds, such as drugs and carcinogens.
The project in which I was participating is about the synthesis of morphine in mammals. Specifically, the goal is to identify and characterize the enzymes responsible for the 6-O-demethylation of morphine precursors in mammal tissues. Although many hypotheses suggest a role in infection and neurological pathologies, the purpose of endogenous morphine is unknown. Elucidating the biosynthetic pathway is important for understanding the purpose of endogenous formation of morphine in mammals.
I would like to conclude by saying that my time here in Nashville, was a guide for the approach I want to take in order to become a researcher and helped me to find what types of Ph. D. programs to which I would like to apply in a near future.
So, definitely apply to VISRA!! Is a great opportunity for the people who love science, travel and country music.