Dr. Velásquez grew up in Lima, by the Peruvian coast. He earned his BS in Biology from the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina of Lima, Perú, after which he did research on resistance to potato viruses at the International Potato Center (CIP). He moved to the United States for graduate studies and earned his PhD from Cornell University working in the laboratory of Dr. Greg Martin on bacterial diseases and the tomato immune response after pathogen colonization. His post-doctoral work was done under the supervision of Dr. Sheng Yang He at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Michigan State University and Duke University investigating plant–microbiota interactions and engineering new pathways of resistance to pathogen infection. Dr. Velásquez joined WCU as an assistant professor in 2022.
Dr. Velásquez has taught BIOL 333, Cell and Molecular Biology at WCU. Previously, he was also an instructor of PLB 416L, Plant Physiology Laboratory, and BS 161, Cells and Molecules, at Michigan State University.
Dr. Velásquez works in the area of <b>plant–microbiota interactions</b>, where he is interested in the mechanisms that allow bacteria to colonize, multiple and thrive once inside of plant leaves. In nature, due to the scarcity of resources, most non-pathogenic bacteria are in an equilibrium in which their population density numbers are kept static. This static state also applies to virulent bacteria experiencing a strong plant immune response known as Effector-triggered immunity. We plan to identify the mechanisms behind microbiota survival to boost plant colonization by beneficial microbiota and halt colonization by pathogens, thereby increasing agricultural yields and productivity.