Dr Fernandez is a genomic scientist & bioinformatician interested in understanding the role non-coding RNAs play in the evolution of gene regulatory landscapes within and across eukaryotes.
She is a Senior Lecturer RNA New Research Talent Program (Level C) funded by the UNSW RNA Institute. Her laboratory focuses on studying the evolution of long non-coding RNAs in various plants and animals to predict their functions better using bioinformatic tools and genomic approaches. She is particularly interested in how these could be leveraged to impact food production and disease in crops and humans.
Dr Fernandez holds a BSc in Genomic Sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (2007). She completed her doctorate at the University of Queensland (UQ), studying new classes of small RNAs with Prof. John Mattick in 2013. As a postdoc, she used comparative genomics to identify regulatory changes that facilitated the evolution of multicellular organisms and morphological diversity in the animal kingdom in the laboratory of Prof. Bernie Degnan, UQ (2012-2015). She then returned to her native Mexico as a Principal Investigator at the Advanced Genomics Unit of Cinvestav (2016-2023) before joining UNSW as a Senior Lecturer in mid-2023.
Dr Fernandez was awarded the Mexico national scholarship L’Oreal-UNESCO-AMC-CONACYT for Women in Science in 2016, the International Rising Talents Fellowship of L’Oreal-UNESCO in 2018 and the Gender Equality Award by the International Union of Immunological Societies in 2019. She is a founding member of Mas Ciencia por Mexico (More Science for Mexico), the Mexican Network of Bioinformatics (Red Mexicana de Bioinformática), and a volunteer instructor of Software Carpentry and previously Clubes de Ciencia Mexico.
She has served as a volunteer mentor at foundations such as Ekpapalek and the “Mujeres en STEM: Futuras Líderes” program of the US-Mexico Foundation. Forbes Mexico magazine selected her as one of the 100 most powerful women in Mexico in 2018. She was recently elected in the competitive female climate leadership program 'Homeward Bound' and is part of #TeamHB8.
In the RegRNALab, we leverage bioinformatic and genomic data analysis to understand how gene regulatory mechanisms change through time, while mantaining the intricate development and diversity of cells we find in multicellular plants and animals.
We are particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary dynamics of non coding RNA molecules. For this, we study a number of biological models that span different evolutionary scales, including humans, plants and animals.
We aim to identify and characterise gene control mechanisms to unveil new medical and biotechnological applications of transitory gene control using RNA.
We are currently comparing the evolution of lncRNAs in synthenic regions in plants to measure how quickly they are lost gain across plant evolution. We also aim to understand what fraction of lncRNAs are under splicing, positional and structural selection in this kingdom.
One of the greatest limiting factors in the identification of lncRNA function is the lack of functional information at the modular level that could potentially be extrapolated to other lncRNAs. We are working in the identification of “structural domains” in lncRNAs that allow us to infer the function of such molecules de novo using bioinformatic methods for their identification join with experimental methods for functional validation.
In collaboration with the group of Dr. Andres Moreno-Estrada we recently characterized the genetic variation of modern Mexicans across Mexico.
We are leveraging this and other Biobanks to identify lncRNAs under selection as well as associated to cardio-metabolic syndromes in admixed populations. We are very interested in how genetic diversity and admixture in humans impacts disease.
My Research Supervision