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Research in the Ramirez lab broadly encompasses characterizing how viruses modulate innate immunity to promote viral replication and pathogenesis. We utilize molecular, cellular, immunological, and virological methods to address questions at the host-pathogen interface. We are primarily elucidating how the nonstructural HIV-1 gene product, nef, modulates the host immune response. Nef functions as an adaptor molecule that hijacks endocytic machinery to alter the normal intracellular trafficking pattern of membrane-bound proteins. These interactions facilitate the “remodeling” of the host plasma membrane to ensure proper viral replication, persistence, and pathogenesis (i.e. disease).

Proteomics identified potential Nef cofactors, or cellular proteins that viruses hijack to enhance viral replication. Projects in this area would include utilizing CRISPR/Cas9 to create knockout cell lines of each putative Nef cofactor. We hypothesize cells lacking these cofactors will impair Nef’s functions and would proceed to characterization and functional assays.


I was born and raised in Santa Paula, a small agricultural town located about an hour northwest of downtown LA. While my (non-scientist) parents always encouraged my education, for many Santa Paulans a future in science was never heavily emphasized. I, therefore, attest my interest in science to my older brother (an engineer), my high school chemistry teacher, and a program called Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA). I also attest to the reasons for persisting within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) predominantly because of the support of STEM programs and organizations targeted towards underrepresented minorities (URMs). Participating in these programs, namely SACNAS, helped me to become the first in my family, a third-generation Mexican-American, to obtain a doctorate in Microbiology and Immunology.

I am grateful for all the support that I have been given in my scientific career. I am therefore committed to achieving equity and enhancing diversity as a faculty member at CSULB. I aim to lead a diverse group of students within the laboratory and classroom, giving them the confidence and motivation to persist and pursue careers within STEM.   Outside of science, I enjoy visiting my family and friends, playing guitar, hiking, running, biking, camping, water sports (kayaking/SUP), reading (fantasy, science fiction), photography, and watching TV (mostly action!).