I grew up in Bogota, Colombia where I attended medical school. I particularly enjoyed the basic sciences, including biochemistry, physiology, and pharmacology; therefore, I decided to devote my career to research and teaching. I completed a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of California, Riverside under the guidance of a wonderful mentor, Dr. David A. Johnson. My dissertation work focused on the structure and function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. For my postdoctoral training, I joined the laboratory of another extraordinary mentor, Dr. Adron Harris, at the Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. In Dr. Harris’ lab, I learned electrophysiology techniques and used these to characterize the modulation of GABAA and glutamate ionotropic receptors by alcohol. In 1998, I became a faculty member in the Department of Neurosciences at the UNM School of Medicine where I established a research program on the neurobiology of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Our laboratory uses electrophysiological, histological and behavioral techniques to characterize the effect of developmental alcohol exposure on the function of neuronal circuits in different brain regions, including the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and cerebellum.

Areas of Specialty



Post-Doc, Pharmacology (1996):
University of Colorado HSC
Denver, Colorado
Phd, Biomedical Science (1993):
University of California Riverside
Riverside, California
MD (1987):
Colombian School of Medicine (Universidad El Bosque)
Bogotá, Colombia

Achievements & Awards

Lewis Award, Basic Science Teaching, UNM-School of Medicine - 2020, 2021, 2022
Curriculum Committee Award for Excellence in Phase-1 Teaching - 2018-2019
Co-Chair, Neuroscience Block, Phase 1 Medical School Curriculum - 2016
President, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group-RSA - 2014-2015
Scientific Director, NIAAA P50 New Mexico Alcohol Research Center - 2014
Board of Directors, Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) - 2013-2017
Regents’ Professorship, UNM-School of Medicine - 2013Khatali Award, Basic Science Teaching, UNM-School of Medicine - 2013
R37 MERIT Award, NIAAA - 2012
A .Earl Walker Neuroscience Research Award - 2008
Director, Alcohol Research Training in Neurobiology, NIAAA T32 Training Grant - 2007
Director, M.D./Ph.D. Program, University of New Mexico School of Medicine - 2005-2011
UNM School of Medicine-Teaching award for Phase I of Medical School Curriculum - 2004
Dean’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Performance, UNM-School of Medicine - 2002




  • English
  • Spanish

Courses Taught

Neuroscience Block for MD Students
Cardiovascular-pulmonary-renal Block for MD students
Neurobiology of alcohol use disorders

Research and Scholarship

Our research focuses on the mechanisms responsible for the actions of alcohol on neurotransmitter receptors, synaptic transmission and plasticity, with emphasis on the impact of developmental alcohol exposure. My laboratory has characterized the effects of ethanol on neurons from the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum. We use a variety of approaches, including slice electrophysiology, optogenetics, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral assays