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Carlos D

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University


Cancer Biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology


I was born and raised in the beautiful tropical island Puerto Rico. There I was always surrounded by a lot of nature, which peaked my curiosity in understanding how nature works. This led my to enrolled into the University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla where I graduate with a B.S. in Biology. I am currently pursuing my PhD at Vanderbilt University. My are of expertise is in immunology and cancer. My current work at Vanderbilt involves studying tumor-specific T cell response agains either hematological and solid tumors. By studying how T cells of the same specificity differentiate and function in different tumor microenvironments, I aim to identify features and signals of the tumor microenvironment that drive T cell dysfunction, that will ultimately translate into better immunotherapy design. I am fluent in Spanish and English. In my free time I like to read about personal development, exercise, enjoy nature, try out different restaurants in Nashville, and share with family and friends.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Why are immunotherapies for cancer challenging to design?

Here the student could write a review article on: -What are immunotherapies? -What makes a cancer difficult to treat with immunotherapy? -What are the current challenges?

Is CAR-T cell therapy the future for cancer treatment?

Here the student could write a review article on: -What is CAR-T cell therapy? -How does it work? -What cancers have been successful treated with CAR-T cell therapy? -What are the current challenges for successful therapy design?

Languages I know


Teaching experience

Since joining the PhD program at Vanderbilt I have mentored 3 outstanding undergraduates students in our lab. I have taught them basic skills in the lab, such as cloning, bacterial transformation all the way to Flow Cytometry and CRISPR editing. My current undergraduate, Minna Apostolova, has done outstanding job in the lab and was awarded as a 2021 Goldwater Scholar.



Universidad de Puerto Rico, Aguadilla
BS Bachelor of Science (2018)
Vanderbilt University
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Cancer Biology, Tumor Immunology

Completed Projects

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