SJBSM-RC Grantsmanship Independent Research Development (GIRD) Program

A significant component of the SJBSM- Research Center’s activities to increase faculty scholarly productivity is offering a Grantsmanship for Independent Research Development (GIRD) Program to talented SJBSM faculty, early-stage investigators, and new investigators. The GIRD program includes individual coaching in scientific writing, a series of conferences entitled Integration to Advance Translation”; and individual advising in research career and grantsmanship development.

Each participating faculty has at least an external mentor or collaborator in their area of expertise to facilitate the development and submission of manuscripts and mentored competitive grants. The program also has the participation of outstanding senior mentors and advisors who will support our efforts in coaching these talented faculty to become independent researchers.

For 2022-2023, a total of eight investigators are participating in the SJBSM-RC GIRD Program to increase peer-review publications and collaborations and develop biomedical and clinical competitive research. The investigators are listed below in the order they joined the GIRD program:

Researcher Research Interests Collaborating Institutions
Yaritza Inostroza, Ph.D. Signaling in inflammation pathways; cardiovascular diseases - UPR-Medical Sciences Campus (MSC)
- Brigham and Women's Hospital
- Harvard Medical School
- Loma Linda University
Maricarmen Colón, Ph.D. Epigenetic mechanisms in reproductive systems - Ponce Health Sciences University
- University of Arizona
Yamixa Delgado, Ph.D. Development of small molecule drugs and protein nanoparticles for drug delivery - UPR-Rio Piedras, MSC, Humacao
- Universidad Central del Caribe
- Ana G. Méndez University
Linda Laras, MD, MPH, MSc, FACOG, PAG Sexual violence screening, forensic medical exams, and health interventions, trauma indicators, best practices. -UPR-MSC
-Ponce Health Sciences University
Ramón Scharbaai, Ph.D. Molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial multi-drug resistance - UPR-MSC
Sandra Chinapen,
Cytotoxicity and transfection in vitro studies of drug-delivering vehicles - UPR-Humacao
Linda Perez, DrPH, MSc, MS, MPA Child Sexual Abuse, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Sexual Violence, Stress related health outcome, Trauma indicators and Cardiovascular Risk Factors -UPR-MSC
-Ponce Health Sciences University
Martha Garcia, M.D., MS Lifestyle and Culinary Medicine, Arts and Humanities -Universidad Central del Caribe,
-Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia

Dr. Yaritza Inostroza-Nieves

received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, PR, in 2007 and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Science Campus in 2013. Dr. Inostroza-Nieves is currently Dean of Biomedical Sciences in a research track tenured position. In 2016, she completed a postdoc at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine as a Research Fellow in Medicine. She worked in molecular immunology, looking at the immune system's biochemical processes and signaling mechanisms. She has recently become interested in the deleterious effects of inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases and potential therapeutics for these diseases.

Dr. Maricarmen Colón-Díaz

received a B.S. in General Sciences from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in 2006 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2012 from the Ponce School of Medicine, followed by postdoctoral studies in microbiology at the Universidad Central del Caribe. Dr. Colon-Diaz is currently the Physiology/Pathology Department Chair in a research track tenure position. She is working in collaborative research with Ponce Health Sciences University and the University of Arizona on the link between environmental factors and epigenetic reprogramming in endometriosis.

Dr. Yamixa Delgado

obtained a BSc in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR)-Humacao in 2008 and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Biotechnology from the UPR-Rio Piedras Campus and Medical Sciences Campus in 2015, followed by a two years postdoctoral experience at the UPR system. Dr. Delgado is Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology and has vast research experience in projects focused on molecular modeling and protein dynamics, nanoparticle design, glycosylation of proteins, lipid-protein formulations, and drug delivery systems for cancer therapy. She is also actively involved in collaborative research with different investigators in P.R. (UCC, UPR System, and University Ana G Méndez) and USA (Stanford University) to advance research and reduce health disparities.

Dr. Linda Laras

is Board Certified OB-GYN with a Master's in Public Health Maternal Child Health and a postdoctoral Master of Science in Clinical Research, UPR Medical Sciences Campus. She also did a fellowship in Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology at Boston Children's Hospital. She joined SJBSM in 2016 as an Assistant Professor and is the Director of the SJBSM Puerto Rico Health Justice Center (PRHJC). Dr. Laras' work includes direct patient care, education, research services and public policies. She directs a team composed of physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, community outreach, lawyer, health educator, education and media communicator, criminal justice, and epidemiologists. Dr. Laras is an active research mentor. The PRHJC is structured for translational research, identifying gaps and their impact, and developing new interventions and outcomes, from disclosure to prosecution.

Dr. Ramon Sharbaai

obtained a MS and Ph.D. in Microbiology with 2 years of Post Doc work at the University of Puerto Rico– Medical Sciences Campus (UPR-MSC). Dr. Scharbaai worked as Adjunct Professor, PhD thesis co-advisor and Research Associate in bacterial genetics and mechanisms of mobilization of antimicrobial resistance genes at the Department of Microbiology, Medical Sciences Campus, UPR. In 2006, Dr. Scharbaai joined SJBSM as an Associate Professor of the Department of Microbiology. He is working in the field of epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and other clinically relevant bacteria. At present, he has a laboratory in SJBSM studying the potential of mobile phones as vectors of pathogenic bacteria and its role as reservoir of resistant bacteria. More recently, he become interested on how the gut microbiome influences the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, in particular sarcoidosis.

Dr. Sandra Chinapen

is an Assistant Professor in the Microbiology Dept and has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience. She is a mentor for medical students engaged in research projects addressing the community's needs. In 2018, she joined a research project involving toxicology tests on nanoparticles designed to improve the delivery of drugs to ovarian cancer cells in vivo (NIH-funded SC3 grant: Novel Gold nanocarriers conjugates for microRNA delivery in ovarian cancer).

Dr. Linda Pérez-Laras

obtained a BSc in Biology from University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez in 2008, an MPA in Forensic Science from Ana G Mendez- Turabo in 2010, MS in Epidemiology in 2015 from University of Puerto Rico-Medical Science Campus, DrPH in Epidemiology from Ponce Health Science University in 2020 and MSc in Clinical and Translational Research a post doctorate from University of Puerto Rico- Medical Science Campus in 2022. In 2017, Dr. Pérez-Laras joined SJBSM as Activities Coordinator under PPOHA Title V and 2019 as Activities Director and Graduate Resource Center Director. She currently is a Faculty member in the Physician Assistant Program and Research Coordinator and Co-PI at PR Health Justice Research Division. As a junior research track faculty, her research interest includes women’s health, gender violence, and child sexual abuse.

Dr. Martha Garcia

completed a medical degree from Universidad Pontificia Bolivarian and a master's degree in biomedical sciences. She is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Biomedical Sciences, Specialist in Virtual Education, Instructional Design, and Technology. Dr. Garcia is an active mentor of medical students and has several areas of research interests in the health humanities, personalized medicine, and lifestyle medicine. She is currently studying the use of a novel interprofessional integrated Health Humanities curricular design and learning analytics to measure the acquisition of competencies in diversity and inclusion.