January 2018 spotlight of the month
Luciana C. VeirasPosition: Ph.D. candidateInstitution: Department of Integrative Anatomical Sciences, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. USAEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?
During my undergraduate studies, I was involved in nephology teaching activities and I was part of a research group studying the impact of micronutrient deficiency in blood pressure regulation. In 2013, I obtained my Biochemistry degree at the University of Buenos Aires and I decided to look for further training in a laboratory specialized in renal physiology. Thus, I relocated to Los Angeles to join Dr. Alicia McDonough’s lab at USC Keck School of Medicine as a PhD student. Here, I became interested in how males and females regulate blood pressure and why females are protected from developing hypertension before menopause.
Describe your research & the program/lab (info of your supervisor) that you are in?
I have been fortunate to conduct my doctoral studies under a highly recognized renal physiologist such as Dr. McDonough. Her guidance and advice are essential to my development as a young scientist. Here, my area of research is focused on how the kidney regulates blood pressure, the influence of electrolytes homeostasis on blood pressure and sexual dimorphisms in blood pressure and electrolyte regulation between males and females.
What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
My first research studies were published in Hypertension (PMID: 27600183) and demonstrated the association between key renal sodium transporters and potassium homeostasis during Angiotensin II hypertension. Additionally, I made outstanding advances investigating the sexual dimorphism of renal sodium transporter expression and the mechanisms of potassium homeostasis in female versus male rodents. I described, for the first time, differences between female and male nephron organization and physiological function that provide insight into the female cardiovascular advantage. Thanks to this work, now published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (PMID: 28774999), I received many prestigious awards from the American Physiological Society and the American Heart Association.
What is your favourite manuscript from a lab other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
There are many remarkable manuscripts in cardiovascular research and renal physiology. One of my favourite authors is Dr. Jane Reckelhoff. Her vision of gender differences in blood pressure regulation is outstanding. Her review entitled “Gender Differences in the Regulation of Blood Pressure” (PMID: 11358929) is my favourite paper. It provides a master compilation of key studies that set the basis for the study of sexual dimorphism in cardiovascular research.
What facilities are essential for your research?
As we study blood pressure regulation in males versus females, it is essential that we use animals that are quiet and happy. As such, our experiments are particularly dependent on excellent vivarium facilities and accurate and precise instrumentation for blood pressure measurements and other physiological parameters.
Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve?
My strengths are persistence, commitment and passion for what I do. I enjoy developing new hypothesis and testing them.
My weakness is that I take on too many responsibilities and sometimes it is hard to find time for myself.
Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?
My proudest moment to date was winning the New Investigator Award at the AHA Council on Hypertension meeting in Washington D.C. in 2015. I recall feeling very proud for discovering that the stimulation of sodium-chloride cotransporter during Ang II hypertension was due to secondary potassium depletion and not Ang II per se.
The most challenging situation that I have had to overcome was to relocate to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams. It was very scary leaving my University, my friends and family to face a completely new environment. Four years after that moment, I could not be happier for my decision.
At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?
My first conference was the Annual Meeting of the Argentine Council of Arterial Hypertension in 2006, where I had an oral presentation. I remember being nervous at first, presenting in front of many pioneers in the field of hypertension, but it was certainly rewarding and the positive feedback helped me to advance my research.
What upcoming conferences will you be attending, and what is the furthest distance that you have traveled for a conference?
I am attending Experimental Biology 2018 in April where I will co-chair, with Dr. Kate Denton, the Water and Electrolyte Homeostasis Section Featured Topic entitled “Adaptations in Fluid Balance and Blood Pressure Regulation during Pregnancy”.
The furthest distance I have traveled for a conference was from Los Angeles, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, for the APS Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolic Diseases: Physiology and Gender Meeting.
How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?
I have been aware of ISH/NIN and its activities since I was an undergraduate student at the University of Buenos Aires. I heard about this Society from my mentor, Dr. Arranz more than 10 years ago.
What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?
My other passion, besides renal physiology, is immunology and many renal diseases involve an immunological response. In the future, I would like to study if the female cardiovascular advantage is related to a sexual dimorphism in the renal immune response.
Who is your role model in Science? Why?
My biggest role models in science are my mentors: Professors Alicia McDonough and Cristina Arranz. They are excellent examples of Women in Science who have stellar careers and make significant contributions to their fields of research, which is something that I aspire to.
What are your scientific goals? Advise for talented emerging scientists?
My long term goal is to become an independent scientist in the field of renal physiology and hypertension. This can be achieved with mayor goals:
- 1) publish good quality papers,
- 2) obtain grants to gain financial independence, and
- 3) be part of an Institution that shows commitment to support my research and my career.
My advice for emerging scientist is: Find your passion, work hard and never give up!