Verónica Contreras-Shannon, PhD, is Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the MARC USTAR Program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX. In addition to teaching courses and labs in General Biology, Toxicology, Mechanisms of Disease, Cell & Molecular Methods, and Scientific Analyses & Methodology, Dr. Contreras mentors 5-10 undergraduates per year in biomedical research. As a faculty at a primarily undergraduate and Hispanic-serving institution (PUI and HSI), Dr. Contreras works to expose undergraduates to cutting-edge biomedical research and give students opportunities to be actively involved in research. As director of the MARC USTAR program, now in its 35th year of training future scientists, her goal is to prepare and attract the next generation of scientists as a means to increase the number of underrepresented students in the sciences. For her work with undergraduates, she has received both the St. Mary’s Distinguished Faculty Research Mentor Award as well as the St. Mary’s Distinguished Faculty Award. Dr. Contreras has also been a Scientific Teaching Fellow and Mentor for the Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching, and is currently working with the Texas Regional Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education Institute to catalyze change in biology education at St. Mary’s University.
Dr. Contreras’ current research focuses on 1) the mechanism of metabolic side effects associated with certain atypical antipsychotics, and 2) the role of the cytoskeleton during various cell phenomena. Specifically, with regard to the latter, her group examines the role of tubulins during cell differentiation, protein secretion, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Dr. Contreras is a recipient of an NIH SCORE grant from NIGMS to study the role beta-tubulins play in the formation and function of foam cells, the cells which can form plaques leading to atherosclerosis.
Dr. Contreras was introduced to ASIP and “recruited” to be a trainee member in 2005 by her mentor, Dr. Linda McManus. Since 2016, Dr. Contreras has been a member of the Committee for Career Development and Diversity. Dr. Contreras is a former recipient of a Trainee Travel Award to attend the ASIP Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology. In addition, her undergraduate research students also received ASIP Trainee Travel Awards in 2016 and 2012, and another was selected to participate in the ASIP Summer Research Opportunity Program in Pathology (SROPP) in 2015 and 2016.
Dr. Contreras earned a B.A. in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and then spent two years at Los Alamos National Lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico participating in research involving supercritical fluids. Later, she earned her doctorate from the Department of Biochemistry in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Health San Antonio. After completing her doctoral work in 2003, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships. During her first fellowship, Dr. Contreras examined how the regeneration of damaged muscle was influenced by inflammatory cells following injury. During her second fellowship, she studied the functional role of proteins encoded by genes that were found to be amplified in prostate cancer.