Veronica G. Martinez Acosta, Ph.D.

Professor, Biology

Dr. Martinez-AcostaVeronica Martinez Acosta is a Professor of Biology at University of the Incarnate Word. Veronica earned a Ph.D. in Zoology from Texas A&M University in the laboratory of Dr. Mark J. Zoran. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas under the direction of Dr. Bing Zang, now at the University of Missouri. Dr. Martinez Acosta has studied systems-level neural plasticity in the annelid worm, Lumbriculus variegatus and in Drosophila melanogaster. Her lab continues to study molecular mechanisms governing neural regeneration and wound healing and the role of stem cell populations in these regenerative processes. She has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of the Army in support of the research she carries out primarily with undergraduates. Dr. Martinez Acosta teaches undergraduate courses in cellular biology, developmental biology, and neurobiology. When not in the classroom, she can be found in the research lab with her undergraduate students. Currently, she is proud to serve as an officer of the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience and as the Co-director of the NSF REU site at the Marine Biological Laboratory: Biological Discovery in Woods Hole Summer Opportunity for Undergraduate Research. Most recently she has begun writing and speaking about diversity, inclusion and equity issues in higher education. On a personal note, Dr. Acosta enjoys spending time with her two sons, Pablo and Diego and her husband, Alfonso. Her hobbies include being a soccer mom; taking her dog for long hikes; cooking; and traveling.

Contact Information

Office Location: Bonilla Science Hall 103
Phone: (210) 829-3149

  • University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX) Biology B.A. 1996
  • University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX) Elem. Ed. B.A. 1996
  • Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) Zoology Ph.D. 2005
  • University of Texas (Austin, TX) Neurobiology Post-doc. 2005-06
  • 2018 – present Course Faculty, Marine Biological Laboratory Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence, and Success (SPINES)
  • 2018-present Professor, Biology, University of the Incarnate Word
  • 2016-present Whitman Center Scientist, Marine Biological Lab, Woods Hole, MA
  • 2012-2018 Associate Professor, Biology, University of the Incarnate Word
  • 2008-2012 Assistant Professor, Biology, University of the Incarnate Word
  • 2007-2008 Assistant Professor, Part-Time, Southwestern University
  • 2006-2007 Visiting Assistant Professor, Biology, Southwestern University
  • 2005–2006 Postdoctoral Fellow, Section of Neurobiology, University of Texas, Austin, TX
  • Biol 4399 ST: Neurobiology of the Senses
  • Biol 4399 ST: Cancer Biology
  • Biol 4320 Neurobiology
  • Biol 4390 Developmental Biology
  • Biol 3311 Cell Biology Lecture
  • Biol 3202 Research in Cellular and Molecular Genetics
  • Biol 1402 General Biology I for Majors
  • Chair, UIW Honors Program Council (2019 – present)
  • Representative, President’s Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (2018-present)
  • Representative, UIW Faculty Senate (2016-2018; 2010-2013)
  • Reviewer, Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (2017-present)
  • Reviewer, NSF – REU Programs, Division of Biological Infrastructure (2016 – present)
  • Treasurer, Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (2016 – present)
  • Chair, Neuroscience Section, Texas Academy of Science (2014-2016)
  • UIW Alpha Faculty Mentor (2014-present)
  • Faculty Advisor - UIW Biology Club (2009-present)
  • 2009-10 SOMAS: Support of Mentors and their Students in the Neurosciences - summer research subaward to VGA from parent grant held at Davidson College (NSF DUE Award# 0426266)
  • 2011; 2012; 2016; 2019 Faculty Endowment Research Award; Awardee
  • 2012 UIW Provost’s Legacy Teaching Award
  • 2012 Sr Eleanor Ann Young Award for Truth – UIW Mission Continues Faculty Award
  • 2018 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology – Broadening Participation Travel Award
  • 2019 UIW Dr. Kathleen Light Outstanding Faculty Award

The goal of my research has been to identify the cellular and molecular mechanisms that influence regeneration of function following injury in an invertebrate model system. I am particularly interested in understanding the downstream effects of injury on neural regeneration in the annelid worm, Lumbriculus variegatus. Lumbriculus variegatus is an ideal model system for examining behavioral, physiological, cellular and molecular mechanisms of development, regeneration and systems-level plasticity. In my laboratory, we investigate the cascade of events following injury that underlie Lumbriculus’ remarkable regenerative ability; an ability that has been lost in higher order vertebrates. I possess 16 years of expertise researching this unique model system. Much of this research has been carried out with the assistance of undergraduate student, community college student, and high school student researchers. Currently, I serve the scientific community at large as the Treasurer for the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), a national organization that is focused on neuroscience education and research at the undergraduate level. I have also served as a mentor to junior faculty and senior postdocs through the BRAINS (Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience) program and to graduate students through the Marine Biological Laboratory Summer Program in Neuroscience and Success summer course (SPINES). Lastly, I serve as a peer reviewer for the National Science Foundation and for the journal, Invertebrate Biology.

Developmental neurobiology; neural regeneration; stem cell dynamics during regeneration; molecular determinants and mechanisms of synaptic plasticity; comparative developmental biology; evolution of regenerative mechanisms; evolution of annelid structure/organization/and regeneration; photoreceptor characteristics in invertebrates.

Ongoing Research Support:

  1. NSF - REU Site: Biological Discovery in Woods Hole – (2/2017 – present) - Award #1659604 - This REU Site award to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) located in Woods Hole, MA supports the training of 10 students for 10 weeks during the summers of 2017-2019. – Co-PI: Veronica G. Martinez Acosta

Completed/Previously Awarded Research Support:

  1. NIMH – NRSA - Diversity Program in Neuroscience/American Psychological Association ( 2002-2005 ) Grant No.: T32MH18882
  2. NIH Extramural Associates Research Development Award ( 8/2010-12/2010) $10,000.00; Program Director: Brian McBurnett, Ph.D. (University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX)
  3. NSF Major Research and Instrumentation Grant ( 1/2013-1/2014) $ 450,120.00; PI: Jonathan M. King, Ph.D. (Trinity University); (Grant No.: DBI-1229702) Co-PIs: Veronica G. Acosta, Ph.D (Univ. of the Incarnate Word); Tyisha Williams, Ph.D. (Trinity Univ.); James L. Roberts, Ph.D (Trinity Univ.); Franklyn G. Healy, Ph.D. (Trinity Univ.)
  4. High School Apprenticeship Program (HSAP)/Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP)/Department of Defense/Research Education Outreach – ( 2015) - BAA ONRBAA13-022- Supplemtn to DoA grant (W911NF-12-R-0009). Award Amount $3,000 each for 1 undergraduate student and 1 high school student research apprentices (Total $6000.00).
  5. Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP)/Department of Defense/Research Education Outreach - ( 2014) - BAA ONRBAA13-022 – Supplement to DoA grant (W911NF-12-R-0009). Status: Award Amount $3,000 each for 2 student research apprentices (Total $6000.00).
  6. DoD Research and Education Program for Historically Black ( 5/2013 – 9/2016) - Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (HBCU/MI) $ 617,974.00; PI: Veronica G. Acosta, PhD. (Univ. of Incarnate Word); Grant No.:BAA W911NF-12-R-0009
  • Lybrand ZR, Martinez-Acosta VG, and Zoran MJ. (2019) Coupled Sensory Interneurons Mediate Escape Neural Circuit Processing in an Aquatic Annelid Worm, Lumbriculus variegatus. Journal of Comparative Neurology (Accepted 8.2019).
  • Martinez Acosta VG and Favero CB. (2018). A Discussion of Diversity and Inclusivity at the University Level: The need for a strategic plan. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE), Summer 2018, 16(3):A252-A260.
  • Martinez-Acosta Veronica G and Zoran, Mark J (October 2015). Evolutionary Aspects of Annelid Regeneration. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: Chichester. DOI:10.1002/9780470015902.a0022103.pub2
  • Whittaker JA, Montgomery BL, and Martinez Acosta VG. (2015). Retention of Underrepresented Minority faculty: Strategic Initiatives for Institutional Value Proposition Based on Perspectives from a Range of Academic Institutions. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE), Summer 2015, 13(3):A136-A145.
  • Zoran MJ and Martinez VG (2009). “Lumbriculus variegatus and the Need for Speed: A Model System for Studies of Rapid Escape, Regeneration and Asexual Reproduction.” In: Annelids as Models Systems in the Biological Sciences (Ed. Daniel Shain). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers. Pp. 185-204.
  • Martinez VG, Manson JMB*, and Zoran MJ (2008). Effects of Nerve Injury and Segmental Regeneration on the Cellular Correlates of Neural Morphallaxis. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 310B(6): 520-533.
  • Martinez VG, Javadi CS*, Ngo E*, Ngo L*, Lagow R*, and Zhang B (2007). Age-related changes in climbing behavior and neural circuit physiology in Drosophila. Developmental Neurobiology 67(6):778-91.
  • Martinez VG, Reddy PK*, and Zoran MJ (2006). Asexual Reproduction and Segmental Regeneration, but Not Morphallaxis, are Inhibited by Boric Acid in Lumbriculus variegatus (Annelida: Clitellata: Lumbriculidae). Hydrobiologia 564(1): 73-86.
  • Martinez VG, Menger GJ, III, and Zoran MJ (2005). Regeneration and Asexual Reproduction Share Common Molecular Changes: Upregulation of Neural Glycoepitopes During Morphallaxis in Lumbriculus. Mechanisms of Development 122(5): 721-732.