Two of the nation’s most inspiring Hispanic scientists are at UC Davis


UC Davis researchers Luis Fernando Santana and Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez are included on Cell Press’s list of “100 Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists in America.”

Luis Fernando Santana and his team. (Photo taken pre-pandemic.)
Luis Fernando Santana and his team. (Photo taken pre-pandemic.)

Published in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the list was selected based on scholarly achievement, mentoring excellence and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Santana is professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology at the UC Davis School of Medicine. He is well-known for his work in cardiac and vascular biology. His lab studies calcium and potassium channels and their effects on electrical activity in the heart and blood vessels. Recently, he published a study showing sex-based differences in that process — an outcome that could lead to distinct treatments for men and women with cardiovascular disease. Santana also is a respected mentor of physician-researchers in training, which, he says, “is truly how I have the largest impact on society. Training has an amplification effect on the quality and diversity in medicine.”

Rodríguez is an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior of the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. Her experiences as a Mexican-Italian-American woman, professor, artist and mother have provided her with fascinating and unusual perspectives on the biology of parental behavior. Calisi Rodriguez investigates avian biology, reproductive neuroendocrinology, genomics and science communication, an effort she calls “B3,” for “birds, brains and banter.” She is the host of Wild Hope Adventures, a collection of video and other learning activities on science in Puerto Rico.

Avian sciences expert Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez.

Cell Press publishes more than 50 scientific journals across the life, physical, earth and health sciences, independently and in partnership with scientific societies, with the goal of sharing science that inspires.

“Our aim in assembling these names is to put an end to the harmful myth that there are not enough diverse scientists to give seminars, serve as panelists, or fill scientific positions,” according to the Cell Mentor blog. “Although we understand this list is not fully representative of the Hispanic/Latinx scientific community, we hope it will help to change the perception of what a scientist looks like and make our collective image more representative of society at large.”

In February, the newest member of the physiology and membrane biology faculty member — Theanne Griffith — was featured on the "Cell Press 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America" list.