Norma Velazquez

Norma Velazquez-Ulloa

Associate professor of biology

Biology-Psychology 220, MSC: 53

I am a General Biologist by training. As an undergraduate I was exposed to courses in biodiversity, cellular and molecular biology, plant and animal physiology, animal behavior, ecology and evolution. I was most curious about the brain, and how the processes inside it produce behaviors. The brain was a puzzle to solve! This led me to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience, during which I studied the cells of the brain, neurons, and how they become specialized during development. This research gave me insight into how the components within the brain work.  But while studying cells, I became interested in how cells come to be, what are the instructions that make up a cell, and allow for different cells to form? This new question led me to become interested in genes: genes that are important to make the brain the way it is, genes that code for proteins that are important for how neurons work, genes that when mutated affect how the brain works, and how it produces behavior.


Co-Chair Neuroscience Program

Academic Credentials

Postdoctoral training, 2010-2013: University of California, San Francisco (Behavioral Genetics)

PhD, 2009: University of California, San Diego (Neuroscience)

BS, 2002: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (General Biology)


BIO 380: Behavioral Genetics

BIO 100: Perspectives in Biology: Genes, Brains, and Behavior

BIO 200: Investigations in Cell and Molecular Biology


Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, is the ideal model organism to answer questions about genetics, cellular and molecular mechanisms, and how these contribute to behavior. The behavior that I focus on is drug addiction. Drug addiction is a worldwide public health problem, and despite all we know about it available treatments have mixed results. We need more information about the genes, molecules, and cells that are affected by drugs, and about how these effects change normal behavior to produce addictive behavior. Research in fruit flies can: contribute to figuring out how drugs affect the brain, find genes that are important for how drugs act in the brain, identify potential targets that would lead to a better understanding of addiction and may lead to the development of new treatments. In parallel, learning about how drugs affect the brain will provide information about how the brain works and how it produces behavior.

Location: Biology-Psychology Hall