Surrounded by the Amazonian biodiversity as a child, I have always felt fascinated by nature and its complexity.
This led me to study Genetics and Biotechnology at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM, Peru). Missing my hometown’s thrilling endemic species, I volunteered to work in a serpentarium at the Natural History Museum of my alma mater, where we analysed viper venom for further pharmaceutical use.
During those years, I also developed a strong interest in using bioinformatics tools to answer biological questions. Therefore, my undergraduate research was focused on predicting vaccine candidates for pneumonic pasteurellosis infecting alpaca; using comparative genomics analyses, we were able to successfully identify an antigen that has now been patented and is ready to be used by farmers.
As I saw how bioinformatics is a powerful tool both for analyses and for low-cost research, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at Fujian Nonglin University (FAFU, China). During this stage, I did not only change settings and re-wired my brain completely, but also my research switched to crops, more specifically; rice. My thesis aimed to identify non-synonymous beneficial mutations present only in wild rice varieties to insert those mutations in cultivated ones by examining the evolution of resistant (R) genes in several Oryza genomes.
During my PhD, I was thrilled to blend two of my biggest passions - history and biology. In short, I worked with museum collections to unravel the stories they can tell us. As part of the Plant.ID network (an H2020 MSCA-ITN-ETN), I was based at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. My thesis was entitled “Palaeogenomics of Cinchona barks: On the chemical and genomic diversity of historical Fever tree barks”. This had a special meaning for me since Cinchona is the Peruvian national tree - depicted in our flag, which was and is still used to treat malaria for hundreds of years. As part of this project, I developed laboratory protocols and workflows to genotype historical barks from the Andean fever tree and assembled its first genome. I also quantified and compared historical chemical annotations to current-day techniques of 19th-century Cinchona. And reconnected barks, woods, and herbarium Cinchona from split collections.
Later on, I took up the challenge of yeast strain design at BioPhero - FMC, a biotechnology company in Copenhagen dedicated to producing insect pheromones using yeast fermentation. With my strong bioinformatic skills and passion for crops, I am developing and implementing workflows for yeast strain design and multi-omic data analysis.
I am a Villum Fellow in the International Postdoc scheme at the University of Copenhagen and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. For three years, I will continue following my dreams to unleash the potential of Natural History Collections by applying genomic, biochemical, ecological, and ethnobotanical perspectives to conduct state-of-the-art research to solve urgent issues like food security. To bolster food security by studying the genetic and chemical diversity and predicting the suitable conditions for cultivating unexplored crops, such as uncommon tuber-bearing potato species.
I am also an activist concerned about Indigenous peoples' rights and biodiversity loss. I am a member of IWGIA. I have belonged to the Global Biodiversitet working group at Verdens Skove since 2020. We work to secure ambitious international targets to halt biodiversity loss through forest conservation and secure indigenous peoples' rights. I am also part of the Student Committee for the Society of Economic Botany, where we aim to stir conversation and keep our student community active in our Student Blog.