Cammi Valdez

Cammi Valdez
Science Center
B.S., Southwestern Oklahoma State University; Ph.D., Harvard University
Science Center, L-142

Cammi Valdez

Director of the McNair Scholars Program; Visiting Lecturer in Biological Sciences

Vascular biologist with dual Wellesley role: Director of the McNair Scholars Program and faculty member in Biological Sciences.

My research focuses on understanding the pathology and physiology of vascular diseases present in the eye using mouse models. I am interested in investigating endothelial cell (EC)-pericyte interactions in the microvasculature (arterioles, capillaries, and venules) of the retina in animal models of disease. My research primarily focuses on capillaries, which are formed by two cell types: EC's create the inner layer and pericytes form the outer layer. My previous work was centered on understanding the role of pericyte loss in diabetic retinopathy, the eye disease in diabetes. Through my research, I was able to experimentally show for the first time that conditional loss of pericytes in adult mice caused microvascular destabilization - acellular capillaries, microaneurysms, and leakage - which has implications for diabetic retinopathy. Additionally, I created automated methods for quantifying EC's, pericytes, and acellular capillaries in the microvasculature of mice. My current research looks at cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), the leading cause of stroke and cognitive impairment and a common neurological disorder in the elderly. Along with my collaborators at Harvard Medical School/Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, I am studying the EC-pericyte interactions in models of CADASIL (cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy), the most common monogenic cause of SVD. 

Through my teaching I aim to inspire students to explore and pursue STEM. I teach a first year seminar "The Eye: A Window into Vascular Diseases" (BISC 103Y), which focuses on principles of the cardiovascular system from a physiological and cellular approach. This course also examines how vascular diseases in the eye have larger implications for cardiovascular diseases systemically. In addition, I co-teach an advanced writing seminar on applying to graduate school (WRIT 325) with Professor Jeannine Johnson, Director and Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program.

As a Latina woman scientist, I am a strong advocate for empowering and advancing women and people of color in STEM. As an educator in this area, I promote this work through the McNair Scholars Program at Wellesley and on national stages as an invited speaker at conferences. I am passionate about changing the landscape and the make up of the people within higher education at all levels - students, faculty, and staff - to become more diverse, inclusive, and representative of the people in our society. Together we can make this a reality!

I love traveling and exploring new areas, family dinner, and going to the movies with my husband and son.