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Dr. Adriana Beltran, Associate Professor

The Genetics Department is proud to highlight Associate Professor, Dr. Adriana Beltran, for her excellence in service, teaching, and mentoring.

Dr. Beltran’s scientific expertise and state-of-the-art research in genetic engineering of physiologically relevant cellular models have helped Carolina establish and retain a leadership role in stem cell research. Moreover, her dedicated efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine (SOM) contribute to Carolina’s better fulfillment of its educational and social role.

Dr. Beltran earned a B.S. in Bio-Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the Autonomous University of Baja California in Mexico, followed by a Ph.D. in Marine Biotechnology from the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education (CICESE) in Ensenada, Mexico. Dr. Beltran continued her training as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Pharmacology in Dr. Pilar Blancafort’s lab, and later with Dr. Gary Johnson at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Beltran was appointed Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology in 2009 and became the Director of the Human Pluripotent Cell Core (HPCC) Facility in the SOM in 2016. Dr. Beltran was appointed as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics in 2020 and was promoted to Research Associate Professor in 2021.

In her research role as HPCC Director, Dr. Beltran uses her expertise in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), genetic engineering, cell differentiation and specialized cellular systems called organoids to develop physiologically relevant cellular models to gain a systems-level understanding of complex biological processes in health and disease. Dr. Beltran and the HPCC collaborate with dozens of researchers at UNC and several external groups every year on a variety of cellular models and disease states. Dr. Beltran and her team, in support of investigators at UNC, have generated cellular models of neurodevelopmental diseases including Cerebral Cavernous Malformation, Alexander Disease, Giant Axonal Neuropathy, Epileptic Encephalopathy, and Down Syndrome. The HPCC team has also established a breast cancer organoid biobank from primary tissue of breast cancer subtypes in collaboration with investigators at UNC and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC). In addition to her work on neurodevelopmental and breast cancer-related cellular models, Dr. Beltran also works with collaborators to establish models for vascularized brain organoids, primary ciliary dyskinesia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease and Autism. Through her own research program and collaborations with the HPCC, Dr. Beltran has an impressive publication history and record of funding from a variety of sources including private foundations, the Department of Defense, several agencies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and internal funding at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Beltran’s has been a recipient of the Asbury-Lee Award, UNC University Research Council Award, and a UNC Faculty Development Award, and is part of the UNC SOM Academic Career Leadership Academy in Medicine (ACCLAIM) leadership program.

Dr. Beltran is an active lecturer on topics related to Stem Cell Biology and Genetic Engineering. She mentors and teaches courses to graduate students here at UNC in the SOM, regularly participates at the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) conferences and is invited to give lectures every year nationally and internationally. Dr. Beltran has served on the UNC Faculty Council for seven years, the UNC Faculty Hearings and Grievance Committee, the Patients and Researchers Together (PART) Committee for LCCC, and the Department of Genetics Advisory Committee.

Dr. Beltran is currently the DEI Liaison for the Department of Genetics, overseeing the Department’s mission to create an inclusive community where differences in identity, culture, background, experience, status, and abilities are valued. Dr. Beltran brings a unique perspective to this role and believes that as all individuals are respected, their diversity of ideas, experiences, and viewpoints creates the rich matrix necessary to achieve excellence. “As a Hispanic woman from a working-class family, and a first-generation college graduate, I appreciate the value of diverse perspectives in the research community, and I also know the challenges, barriers, and discrimination that underrepresented groups face in and out of academia. I strongly believe all individuals, independent of their background, must have equal opportunities and a supportive environment to have a positive experience while building their career and their lives. In scenarios where this is not the case, we as teachers and mentors must do all that is necessary to lever minority students to have that opportunity. As a female minority Faculty member, I have experienced many such challenges, allowing me to accumulate a wealth of experiences and insights that I use to support others thrive in a diverse environment. I’m committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion by supporting systemic change across Carolina”.