Cristina Fernandez-Valle

Professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Science, College of Medicine history month profiles

What is your current job title and responsibilities?
Professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Science  (BSBS), College of Medicine. My responsibilities are 45% teaching, 50% Research (I have NIH, State and private foundation funding to conduct research on normal and abnormal development of the nervous system and 5% service

What is your history at UCF? (past job titles, responsibilities)
I joined UCF on December 31, 1995 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology. I rose through the ranks to Professor in 2012.  My appointment has gone from 25% research and 70% teaching to what it is now roughly 50:50 research and teaching

What is your favorite UCF memory?
My favorite recent memory is the official opening/dedication of the medical school nearly 3 years ago. In the evening, Dean German and  Rasesh Thakkar from the Tavistock group spoke, and Rasesh gave the toast with the crowd holding test tubes of champagne  and then fireworks were ignited.  The planes from the airport were diverted and it was a quiet and beautiful evening with a large crowd of faculty, administrators, students and  community partners and friends. It felt as if UCF was daring to begin something few thought was possible. 

If you could change one thing at UCF, what would it be? ($ and time no object)
A monorail connecting the main UCF campus with the medical school campus and even the Rosen campus

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
Focus on what you want, not on what you do not want.  Stay positive no matter what is happening. One can always find a silver lining to a dark day. Nothing comes from negativity but more negativity and unhappiness.

What is your favorite restaurant or food?
I love Thai food but not too spicy- all the colorful crunchy fresh vegetables are great.  My favorite restaurant in Oviedo is Sushi Pop, in Winter Park – I like Prato- the environment is casual and the food can be really simple but of high quality.

What is your favorite book or movie or song?
I love Sting’s FRAGILE.  It reminds me that humans and our planet are fragile and we should treat each other and our planet with greater kindness and care.  One of my favorite writers is Michael Ondjate, he was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Canada, he wrote the “English Patient” and a memoir “ Running in the Family” which is very short and so descriptive.  I also like Isabel Allende, and for the classics, Ernest Hemingway (Old man and the Sea) and Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)

What is your dream vacation spot?
A tropical island— I was born on an island- Cuba, and sailed the Caribbean after graduating from College. So now I need to go to the South Pacific or the Seychelles, anywhere where it is warm, the ocean is deep blue and it has a rich reef teeming with life.

What is your favorite sport to watch or participate?
I lived on a sailboat for 10 years, so I love to sail and I think the America’s Cup is fun to watch and to participate in.

If UCF was going to name something in your honor, what would you like it to be?
A scholarship program for minority women in science.

If you could have lunch with anyone at UCF, who would you choose and why?
I would have a month of lunches so I could meet all the women that UCF has honored this year.  I feel that I spend so much time trying to be successful at work that I do not leave enough time to meet new friends and cultivate the ones I have.

Who at UCF would you like to thank for your success?
Since my academic unit was moved into the College of Medicine in 2006, I must acknowledge and thank Dean German for supporting my promotion to full professor, and making changes that have created an environment where everyone is appreciated for their unique contributions to our common goal: making UCF’s College of Medicine a great place to obtain an undergraduate, graduate or medical degree.

Name and describe a teacher from you past who truly inspired you.
My post-doctoral advisor, Dr Mary Bunge.  She continues to inspire me today.  She became a scientist at a time when few women pursued a PhD and conducted research, so she faced discrimination, was not taken seriously and was underpaid. She is now 82 years old and is still funded by NIH to work on spinal cord injury at the University of Miami.  She never gave up and is a highly respected and decorated scientist. She also taught me to take time for family, do things I enjoy, and to run my research lab as an extension of my own family as much as possible.

What undergraduate class/program inspired you the most and why?
As a freshman at Miami Dade Community College, I missed the first week of Biology 1 lab due to wisdom teeth extraction.

When I attended the first class, the professor, a commanding  ex-marine, told me there was no way I could succeed in the lab or as a Biology major and that I should drop the course and change my major. I had just graduated from a 4 year-all girl Catholic high school and had never been told I could NOT do something academically.  I looked at him with shock and somehow told him he had no idea who I was and what I was capable of.  I passed with an  A.  Sometimes, being told you cannot do something can be as inspiring and motivating as someone supporting  you.

 

 

 

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