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Faculty profile: Norma Velazquez Ulloa

July 15, 2013

  • Assistant Professor of Biology Norma Velazquez Ulloa

The following Q&A is part of a series created by the college dean’s office to introduce new faculty. Get to know Assistant Professor of Biology Norma Velazquez Ulloa, who joins the faculty this fall, in the interview below. 

Education: Ph.D. 2009, University of California at San Diego; B.S. 2002, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Research and Teaching Interests: Molecular and genetic mechanisms of nicotine and alcohol; neurobiology of behavior in the common fruit fly.

What most excites you about joining the L&C community?

I look forward to interacting with L&C students in class, in my lab, and around campus. I’m also excited about working with my colleagues in the biology department and getting to know people all across Lewis & Clark College.

Describe the current trajectory of your scholarly research.

I am interested in how drugs of addiction modulate behavior. During my postdoctoral work, I characterized several effects of long-term nicotine exposure on the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. I found similarities between the effects of nicotine in flies and the effects of nicotine in other model organisms as well as in humans. In the future, I plan to use the genetic and molecular tools available for Drosophila research to identify new genes, cellular and molecular mechanisms for drug-induced behaviors.

What kind of hobbies or special activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I like learning new things. My latest projects have included ceramics classes and cheese making at home. I also love reading and going to the movies. In addition, I enjoy listening to music, going to concerts on occasion, and playing music. Travelling is another hobby of mine—I enjoy both urban and nature travels. I am always looking forward to learning about other cultures through travel, music, food, books, movies, and interaction with people from all over the world.

What were your childhood goals/aspirations?

I wanted to be a scientist and work at a university. But along the way I toyed with the idea of following several different paths, including becoming an astronomer, a physicist, a photographer, a musician, or a writer. Once I settled on biology, I also explored several options—including marine biology, ecology, plant physiology, and echinoderm taxonomy—before I finally chose to specialize in neurobiology, and most recently on the genetics of behavior.

What are you listening to in your car right now?

I like listening to NPR for news and some of the shows, like Fresh Air and This American Life. For music, I like many genres, and what I listen to depends on my mood and can vary between classical music, ’80s and ’90s hits, classic rock, current hits, Latin rock and pop, indie rock, and world music.

What was your favorite childhood story?

I liked the story of The Little Prince, and I still do.

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