I was recruited at INTA- University of Chile in 1996 to address the study of the molecular and cellular bases that determine the response to micronutrient deficit and excess. In this context, I was invited as visiting Professor at the Department of Nutrition and Toxicology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA (conducted in 2001, 2000 and 1999). At this time, together with Dr. Chris Vulpe, I obtained an international grant from the International Copper Association (ICA) and the ILS- University of California, Berkeley. In 2005, along with my colleague Dr. Veronica Cambiazo, we created the laboratory of Bioinformatics and Gene Expression (LBGE) at INTA, Universidad de Chile. Since the creation of LBGE, I have mentored 14 graduate, 8 undergraduate students, obtained 24 competitive grants, two patents and published more than 100 articles (WOS, 3000 citations). I was president of the Chilean Society for Cell Biology (2013-2014), member of editorial board of Biological Research (2010-present) and director of PhD program in Silvo-Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences in the University of Chile (2016-2018). During 2017 I was appointed as full professor.
My laboratory has focused on the study of copper metabolism, in particular the analysis of the molecular mechanisms that account for the cellular homeostasis of the metal, has been of great relevance in the search for potential molecular markers of systemic copper status, an unresolved aspect in the public health area of micronutrients. My contribution in this field has been to implement an experimental approach that takes advantage of the knowledge derived from obtaining genome sequences from different biological models (mammalian, plant and bacterial) including humans. In this process I have focused with special attention on the mechanisms that govern the expression of genes coding for components directly or indirectly related to the intracellular handling of copper. In this context, I have been invited to be part of the Scientific Organizing Committee of the 9th International Copper Meeting. October 2014 and the Fourth international workshop on iron and copper homeostasis (4IWICH) November 2011. In addition, I have been invited to present the results of this line of research in three international meetings of the program “Copper homeostasis and its disorders: molecular and cellular aspects” organized by The European Human Genetic Society and in two international meetings of the “Workshop Iron and Copper homeostasis”.
The last 10 years, as members of CRG, my research is focused on the functional genomics, gene regulatory networks, co- occurrence networks and ecology of microbial communities inhabiting the Atacama Desert soils. In order to find potentially mutualistic relationships between Atacama plants and bacteria, we studied the microbiome that inhabits the soil immediately adjacent to the most abundant plant species. Overall, our results indicate that the thin layer of soil surrounding the roots constitute a distinctive nutritional environment that support a bacterial recruitment mechanism, in which the rhizosphere modulates the composition and function of bacterial communities in this compartment. In addition, root system is a critical factor that reconfigure bacterium-bacterium interaction patterns.