Diana Rojas Araya, Ph.D. Student
Entomology & Nematology Department
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
University of Florida

Chair: Barry W. Alto, Ph.D.
Co-chair: Nathan Burkett-Cadena, Ph.D.
Supervisor: Derek Cummings, Ph.D.
Project 4: Multi-scale, modular models for vector-borne disease
Specific Aim 3: Develop models of the microscale transmission dynamics of mosquito-borne viral pathogens.

Diana Rojas Araya is a Ph.D. student in the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) and Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida (UF), advised by Dr. Barry W. Alto, Dr. Nathan Burkett-Cadena, Dr. Derrick Mathias, and Dr. Derek Cummings. Diana completed a Bachelor degree in Tropical Biology at the Universidad Nacional of Costa Rica, and another Bachelor and Licentiate degree in Microbiology and Clinical Chemistry at the Universidad de Costa Rica. After she graduated from the microbiology program, she was offered a position as a professor at the Department of Human Parasitology at the Microbiology School in the University of Costa Rica, where she works until today. As a professor, Diana worked for 4 years in the Medical Helminthology Section, and it was during that period when she completed her Master degree in Epidemiology at the Universidad Nacional of Costa Rica. Her Master’s research focused on the prevalence and distribution of the parasitic trematode Fasciola hepatica in the bovine herd of Costa Rica, a parasite that can also affect humans.

After her master’s degree, Diana switched focuses from medical helminthology to medical entomology. Interested in doing a Ph.D. in medical entomology, she met with Dr. Barry W. Alto at Florida Mosquito Control Association Annual Meeting. Through several meetings, Diana started her Ph.D. at FMEL, working also with Dr. Burkett-Cadena, Dr. Mathias, Dr. Cummings, and the Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases (SECVBD). Diana’s SECVBD research focuses on studying the impacts of fluorescent powder on Aedes aegypti, so that she can use the powder as markers in a mosquito trap able to estimate the mosquito movement. The results of some of her experiments can be found in these publications: Detection of Fluorescent Powders and Their Effect on Survival and Recapture of Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae)  and Impacts of fluorescent powders on survival of different age cohorts, blood-feeding success, and tethered flight speed of Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae) females.

Single Aedes aegypti female marked with fluorescent powder
Photo Credit: Diana Rojas Araya

A group of blood-fed marked females.
Photo Credit: Diana Rojas Araya

During her time at FMEL, Diana has participated in meetings of the Florida Mosquito Control Association, presented in Graduate Student Research Symposiums and in the Vector Week of the National Center for the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, at Fort Collins, Colorado. She also participated in an International Course on Ecological Determinants of Vector-Borne Disease Dynamics, part of the Tropical Medicine Post Graduation Program of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute- Fiocruz in Brazil.

Diana at the Vector Week of the National Center for the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases
Photo Credit: Diana Rojas Araya

 

Diana presenting at the course in Brazil.
Photo Credit: Diana Rojas Araya

As a part of outreach activities, one of Diana’s favorite interests, every semester she enjoys playing with kids and teaching them about mosquito biology and their relation to vector-borne diseases.

Diana will be returning to Costa Rica to work in the School of Microbiology at the University of Costa Rica after she finishes her Ph.D. and hopes to continue collaborating with medical entomology researchers and outreach/ extension projects.

Learn more about Diana’s Research:
Research Gate
ORCID
Google Scholar