A triple-degree alum of the University of Nevada, Reno who was a first-generation student is the new director of the University’s Biotechnology Program in the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.
Karla Hernández, who will also serve as a teaching assistant professor in the College’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from the College, and went on to earn a doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology from the University. During her time as a student, she held various research and teaching positions, in addition to completing a postdoctoral research fellowship in the University’s Pharmacology Department, part of the School of Medicine.
As a first-generation graduate, Hernández has enjoyed mentoring and guiding numerous students from diverse backgrounds to achieve their academic goals. Prior to her new roles, she was an associate director for the federally funded Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which supports high-achieving undergraduate students from underrepresented communities to attain doctoral degrees.
Hernández also served as a program coordinator for the Nevada Learn and Earn Advanced Career Pathway Program, where she helped develop pipelines to augment participation of underrepresented students in STEM careers. She is currently collaborating with faculty from the college to establish the first chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science in the state of Nevada.
Hernández also contributed a chapter to the book, “Success for All: Programs to Support Students Throughout Their College Experience.” The chapter, "Augmenting Undergraduate Research Involvement and Graduate School Preparedness," emphasizes the necessity of supportive programs to ensure academic success for all students.
Hernández, who also conducts research as part of the College’s Experiment Station unit, has continued research in the areas of nutritional intervention as a cancer therapy; epigenetic regulation in allergic inflammation; and employing fruit flies as a model to investigate various aspects of human genetics, development and behavior. She is the author of several peer-reviewed scientific articles and has presented her research findings at numerous conferences, both nationally and internationally. As an advocate for education for all, her research also extends to developing inclusive scientific teaching methods.
“As the new director, I am committed to continue advocating for student wellness and success while incorporating innovative pedagogical methodologies into the curriculum to assure the Biotechnology Program continues to train the next generation of scientists and innovators to lead in the evolving field of biotechnology,” Hernández said.
For years, Hernández has worked to raise awareness of issues disproportionally affecting underrepresented communities and first-generation students. She previously served as the University’s director of Hispanic/Latinx community relations. She also holds several advisory and community outreach positions focused on supporting inclusive STEM education in Nevada.
"Karla is a product of the Biochemistry & Molecular Department, and we are delighted to have her join us as the new director," said Robert Ryan, the chair of the department. "She is wholeheartedly dedicated to offering STEM education opportunities to students from underserved communities and is actively expanding the program by recruiting these students."