Alexandra Hernandez of the Ryan Lab Defends her PhD!

Alexandra Hernandez of the Ryan Lab Defends her PhD!

Published: Monday, November 29, 2021

On November 12, Alexandra M. Hernandez, a Ph.D. student working in the laboratory of Joseph Ryan, successfully defended her Ph.D. entitled “Unraveling Ctenophorology and its Implications on Early Animal Evolution".

During her Ph.D., Dr. Hernandez identified instances of horizontally transferred genes in the genomes of ctenophores, used simulations to provide key insights into the effects of commonly applied phylogenetic strategies, and made an important contribution to understanding the evolution of muscle cells in animals. Dr. Hernandez’s has published her work in the top journals in her field (including Systematic Biology). Dr. Hernandez received several awards including the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship, the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and was inducted into the University of Florida’s chapter of the Bouchet Society for outstanding scholarly achievement and promoting excellence and diversity in doctoral education.

In 2017, Dr. Hernandez became the founding president of the University of Florida’s chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). The national SACNAS organization is the largest multicultural and multidisciplinary STEM diversity organization in the country, and prior to Dr. Hernandez’s efforts, did not have a major presence at the University of Florida. Under Dr. Hernandez’s leadership, the chapter has become one of the key Student Diversity Organizations on the University of Florida campus. The chapter organized and continues to run a number of events including the first ever Southeast Regional SACNAS meeting in 2020. In 2021, the chapter was recognized by the national SACNAS organization, winning an award at the national meeting for its outstanding fundraising.

These are a small subset of accomplishments that Dr. Hernandez achieved while completing her Ph.D. at the Whitney Laboratory and in the University of Florida’s Department of Biology. We are very excited to celebrate her success and are looking forward to celebrating her future successes as she continues her impressive career. Dr. Hernandez will begin postdoctoral studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in the laboratory of Dr. Adam Reitzel beginning in 2022. We have been very lucky to have her at Whitney and wish her the best of luck moving forward!