Dr. de la Cruz was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he attended the University of Puerto Rico, Bayamón Campus and graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Human Biology and a minor in General Sciences and Biology Teaching. Afterward, he enrolled in the Universidad Central del Caribe to obtain his PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology. During the second year of his PhD program, Dr. de la Cruz became an NINDS summer graduate student before eventually becoming a member of the Graduate Partnership Program and an IRTA in Dr. Miguel Holmgren’s lab where he worked on his dissertation research entitled “Insights on the Gating Mechanism of a Voltage-Gated Potassium Channel using Metal Bridges and Methanethiosulfonate Crosslinkers.”
After obtaining his PhD, Dr. de la Cruz held dual postdoc appointments within the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) under Dr. Sharon Milgram while continuing his research with Dr. Holmgren. While at OITE, he acted as a program coordinator for the High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP). His duties with HiStep afforded him in-depth knowledge of NIH-sponsored training programs and career paths.
Over the years, Dr. de la Cruz has developed an interest in helping scientific trainees at every level. He joined the leadership of the NIH Society for the Advancement of Chicanos, Hispanos and Native Americans in Science to provide opportunities in career development and mentoring to the NIH community. Additionally, he served on multiple NINDS committees with the goal of disseminating the NINDS mission to the greater Washington D.C. region via community-outreach activities including Take Your Child to Work Day, the Science and Engineering Festival, Brain Week, and others. Recently, Dr. de la Cruz completed a detail within the NINDS DER’s Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity with Dr. Michelle Jones-London where he learned about the grant-approval process and funding opportunities within the NINDS extramural community. Dr. De La Cruz just join the DIR NINDS as the Summer, Diversity and Postbacs program coordinator to oversee the training and career development of the IRTA trainees.