Mariel Vazquez
CAMPOS Faculty Scholar (2014-2015) and Professor of Mathematics and of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Dr. Vazquez is a mathematical biologist with a specialization in the applications of topology to the study of DNA.

Bio and Research

Mariel Vazquez is professor of mathematics and of microbiology and molecular genetics at UC Davis. She works at the interface of mathematics and biology. Her research uses tools from pure mathematics (knot theory, low-dimensional topology, graph theory) to study important biological questions, especially the packing and function of DNA. For example, she has studied the topological changes (changes in shape), of DNA affected by enzymes, how chromosomes are changed by radiation and cancer, and how DNA is packed up within a cell. Her work, often collaborative, has provided keen insights into the packing of DNA and into the mechanism of enzymes involved in important biological processes such as DNA replication and DNA repair.

Awards and Service

Mariel is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Blackwell-Tapia Prize, the 2015 Dorothy Wrinch Endowed Lectureship at Smith College, a 2014 CAMPOS scholarship at UC Davis, the 2014 Mohammed Dahleh Distinguished Lectureship at UC Santa Barbara, a 2012 US Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and a 2011 NSF CAREER Award. The PECASE honored her for excellent interdisciplinary and international research at the interface of mathematics and biology and for creativity and dedication to recruiting, training, mentoring, and helping students from underrepresented groups achieve their goals. Mariel serves on the Human Resources Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). She has served on the Advisory Board at the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). She has been actively involved with SACNAS as co-organizer of Scientific Symposia as speaker and mentor, and she has also helped secure federal funding to support mathematics participation. She has been involved as organizer and keynote speaker at the Modern Math Workshop, sponsored by the NSF mathematics institutes.

She is featured in two YouTube videos on the topic of DNA Topology: 1) The Shape of DNA (The amazing knots, twists and turns inside our cells), and 2) How DNA Unties Its Own Knots (How “Pac-Man” unties knots in our DNA).