Name: Paula Valiño Ramos
Majors: Biochemistry and Neuroscience

In between attending classes and training for the Iowa women’s basketball team, Paula Valiño Ramos conducts basic research in Professor of Biology Joshua Weiner’s neuroscience lab. The research team seeks to understand currently unknown features about how the human brain works, is structured, and develops.

Paula Valiño Ramos

Valiño Ramos says that the discipline and persistence that she’s developed in order to play NCAA Division I basketball serves her well in the lab.

“Things do not always work as expected the first time. Attention to detail and repetition are important for mastering every single skill."

What originally piqued your interest about research?

I always liked sciences and enjoyed my science classes in school. Hearing about diseases like cancer and scientific breakthroughs in the news, I would think about how much there still was to discover and how exciting that was. During high school, I got to participate in a genetics research camp at a local university and I absolutely loved the work, the methods, and the reasoning behind every step. Then I was sure that was the path I wanted to follow!

What are you discovering that gets you excited about going into the lab?

I am part of Dr. Weiner’s lab in the Neuroscience. Our work focuses on gamma-protocadherins, which are cell adhesion molecules that play a role in neural circuit formation during brain development. Specifically, we look at how the actions of gamma-protocadherins help the developing neurons grow, branch out in the brain tissue, and form connections with the branches of other neurons that they encounter. This branching and synapse formation determine brain circuitry and connectivity.

I find it fascinating to study the molecular mechanisms by which the brain comes to be such a complex system, and to understand the specific impact of certain gamma-protocadherins in this bigger process.

Did the opportunity to get involved in research play a role in your decision to choose the University of Iowa?

Absolutely! It was one of my top priorities. I was able to speak to faculty members who explained the undergraduate research opportunities to me during my recruiting process. The coaches were also very supportive of players getting a great education and making the most out of our time at Iowa, including our academic careers. I knew that Iowa was going to be a great place for me to get the experience I wanted.

Is getting involved in research helping you to prepare for a future career? What are your career goals?

My future plans are still up in the air, but I know for sure that I will stay in touch with research. I would love to attend graduate school for a neuroscience program, or maybe medical school. I am very confident to say that my research experience at Iowa will give me the preparation I need to pursue any career in science, regardless of the path I take.

Photo: Paula Valiño Ramos works with her research mentor, Joshua Weiner, Professor of Biology, in his neuroscience lab.