MAYAGÜEZ – The married couple made up of doctors Yadira M. Soto Feliciano and Francisco J. Sánchez Rivera, graduates of the Mayagüez University Campus (RUM), the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), were selected among the 100 most inspiring Hispanic scientists in the United States, according to the notorious Cell Press.
Beyond the family ties that unite them, both share outstanding research ranging from the spread of cancer, to a topic as recent as COVID-19, it was reported this Sunday in written statements.
“This recognition was awarded to both of us independently, but we both ended up on the same list that shows the work of Hispanic scientists, at different stages of their careers. These respected scientists include people who have won the Nobel Prize, such as Dr. Mario Molina, and researchers who have been conducting studies in their laboratories for several decades. They also included what they call the stars that are in the process of becoming part of the next generation of scientists. In that category, we were included Francisco and this servant. It was a very great honor because it was led by the Cell Press publication, one of the most prestigious publishers of scientific journals in the discipline, so for us it is very great and important ”, indicated Dr. Soto Feliciano.
On the one hand, Soto Feliciano is doing postdoctoral studies at The Rockefeller University, while Sánchez Rivera is a postdoctoral researcher for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, both centers located in New York.
“Right now, there are not many Puerto Ricans in the cancer research field, but we will be many more in the future. We are in an honorable position, as we do a type of research that is quite at the forefront. I think they recognized that effort and the quality of our research to be part of this very committed group. For my part, I investigate how a cell receives a mutation or an alteration or how that cell eventually contributes to the formation and development of a tumor that, eventually, can spread throughout the body of human beings and obviously end in the death of the patient. So, I’m interested in those processes that that individual cell experiences and what are the trajectories in terms of evolution that that cell navigates, until it reaches a malignant tumor “, indicated Sánchez Rivera, a graduate of the Department of Biology, specializing in Microbiology .
For his part, Soto Feliciano focuses on scientific study at one of the institutions that has historically been characterized by discoveries and contributions in biomedical sciences.
“My research work in the last four years consists of the interface of molecular and cellular biology, with an emphasis on cancer biology. My project is focused on understanding the mechanisms that the cell has developed over millions of years to pack our genetic material, not only efficiently packing it into a fairly small nucleus, but also the ways in which that packing is regulated (when opens and closes). The importance of these mechanisms is that they dictate the way in which genes, which are those that control practically all the processes that occur in the cell, can be activated or deactivated in a regulated way. We have learned in the last ten or fifteen years, through sequencing efforts in different diseases, that the factors that regulate this turning on and off of genes are quite altered in cancer. The research focuses on understanding how these mutations alter the normal state and can contribute to diseases, particularly cancer ”, explained the graduate of the Department of Chemistry.
Both have known each other since their days as students in the Mayagüez campus of the UPR, from where they graduated together. They then completed their doctoral studies in 2015 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In fact, Dr. Jorge Haddock, president of the UPR, highlighted how important this achievement is for the main teaching and research center in Puerto Rico.
“On behalf of the entire university community, our congratulations to doctors Yadira Soto Feliciano and Francisco Sánchez Rivera, their contributions to science and health are not only a source of pride for the University of Puerto Rico, they also make our island shine. They are the best example of the tradition of success that we promote from the institution. Professionally and personally, our best wishes. Congratulations, ”said Hadock.
For his part, Dr. Agustín Rullán Toro, rector of the RUM, also praised the recognition.
“This news fills us with great pride as the main university institution in the country. Knowing the history of these two schoolboys serves as motivation for our students and for society. These researchers have shown that the education they received had enormous results and has transcended beyond their borders. Their success is also that of the Colegio and Puerto Rico ”, Rullán Toro pointed out.