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Lysandra Castro: NIEHS Diversity Advocate and Artist

March 2005

Lysandra Castro
Lysandra Castro at the 2004 NIEHS International Festival, where she manned a display booth on Puerto Rico.

Biologist Lysandra Castro is the first person in her family to go to college. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Castro cultivated her creative talents as well as her analytical, logical side. To those at NIEHS who know her, she is perhaps the artistic best-kept secret around.

In an art school in Puerto Rico, Castro mastered the techniques of drawing, painting, ceramics and sculpture. But, she said, it was old wives tales that launched her interest in science. She began a quest for knowledge that led her to science. However, art is her passion. "For art, your inspiration should not be money," Castro said. "If it is, you will not have real inspiration."

Some of Castro's paintings surrealistically blend elements of nature with elements of science. For example, one painting displays a bouquet of flowers in a beaker. Another one superimposes items on top of each other. She completed more than 50 pieces, which sell as fast as she paints them. Castro set up a booth at the NIEHS craft fair in early December and sold almost everything she had. But that's not surprising to Colleen Anna, a biologist in the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis. Anna owns a small, dark landscape of a lighthouse in front of a color-streaked sky. The vibrant colors and appealing subjects in Castro's landscapes draw you into them, Anna said, making you feel "like you are almost there."

Castro attended the Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico, and earned a bachelor's degree in molecular biology. She would like to focus on experimental pathology for her doctoral work. She first came to the United States in 2001, as part of a summer program. She came to NIEHS after she applied for and was accepted into the Summers of Discovery Program. Teddy Devereux, now retired, hired Castro as a trainee, and Castro soon landed a permanent position in the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology, where her work focuses on fibroids.

Castro enjoys talking about her culture and her experience at NIEHS. She is featured on a recruitment poster for NIEHS that was created last year.

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