Dr. Cristian Aguilar
The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program was Dr. Aguilar’s first taste of undergraduate research, which lead him to other research-oriented programs, like the Amgen Scholars found at U.C. Berkeley in 2007. His experiences with undergraduate research, along with the mentorship of faculty like Dr. Nancy E. Buckley and Dr. Kunxin Luo, helped him enter the Ph.D. program at the department of developmental and cell biology at UCI.
While at UCI, Dr. Aguilar found that his general interest in cancer biology became focussed on the ability of cells to reinitiate the cell cycle and change their state of cellular differentiation. He shifted his paradigm to study the amazing regenerative ability of the salamander Ambystoma mexicanum. Similar to stem cells and cancer cells, the cells of this salamander are able to initiate growth in order to repair injuries, and even change fates in order to accomplish the replacement of lost tissues as complex as whole limbs. Within the context of regeneration, Dr. Aguilar investigates the role of epigenetic modifications controlling gene expression and behavior of cells.
Dr. Aguilar wants all the current and future scholars to remember one thing, “focus on designing your own education, and then make it a reality. The doctorate degree inherently conveys a sense of autonomy when it comes to conducting research. There will be a new level of independence seemingly forced upon you. Embrace the independence and run with it.”