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Meet Veronica Jimenez

Research Focuses on Parasites Affecting Human Health

March 28, 2014

Veronica Jimenez's interest in science and research on parasites that cause human disease emerged while working at public hospitals in Argentina.

"I saw newborns and adults infected with 'trypanosoma cruzi,' the causing agent of Chagas disease, and in some way, that motivated me to pursue a research career in biomedical sciences," said Jimenez, assistant professor of biological science.

In addition to her investigation on trypanosoma cruzi, she also studies "trypanosoma brucei," the microscopic parasite responsible for sleeping sickness, commonly found in rural Africa.

Chagas disease and African trypanosomiasis sleeping sickness are caused by parasites transmitted by insect bites and affect millions of people in Latin America and Africa, explained Jimenez, who conducts research in molecular parasitology and joined Cal State Fullerton's faculty last fall.

"There is no vaccine to prevent these diseases, and the drugs available have limited efficacy and significant side effects, so the need for new treatment options is evident," she said.

Chagas disease also is considered a global emerging disease due to the increasing number of cases in the U.S. and Europe, possibly associated with immigration and changes in the distribution of the insects that transmit the disease, noted Jimenez, a native of Spain who was raised in Mendoza, Argentina.

"I'm studying the mechanisms of adaptation to environmental conditions that allow the parasites to survive in changing conditions. The idea is to understand which are the essential mechanisms for the survival of the parasite and to exploit them as therapeutic targets," she said.

Jimenez uses both molecular and cellular biology methods, combined with biophysics to study transport mechanisms, which she calls an "innovative approach" in parasitology. In 2010, she received an award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for scientific excellence, and in 2012, her parasitology research was published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS Pathogens.

Her work is currently funded by a nearly $500,000 "Pathway to Independence" National Institutes of Health grant, which she received in 2012 to support new researchers in their transition from postdoctoral work to faculty positions. She also received a postdoctoral grant from the American Heart Association.

At CSUF, Jimenez teaches an upper-division course on advances in cellular biology, and this semester, two CSUF undergrads are conducting research in her lab, along with a postdoctoral researcher from Argentina.

"It's been great to be back in the classroom. While I was at graduate school, I was doing a lot of teaching and enjoyed the energy flow of the teaching experience," said Jimenez, who earned her doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Chile.

She also holds a bachelor's degree in pharmacy and master's degrees in pharmacy and biochemistry from the University Juan Agustin Maza in Argentina. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Georgia's Department of Cellular Biology and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.

"Teaching keeps you connected with the real world," she added. "I'm excited to be at CSUF, especially because of the diversity of the student population. I feel that I can relate with such a diverse environment, and I can be a good example of what you can achieve by having access to the right opportunities."

Tags:  Academics & Research