Dr. Alessandra Barrera

Associate Professor of Biology

Office H-2256
Office phone
Email Address


Dr. Alessandra Barrera is a third-generation Spanish/Mexican-American who is dedicated to improving the accessibility of professional education for minorities. As a life member of the Society for the Advancement of Native Americans and Chicanos in Science (SACNAS), Barrera has mentored others and conducted workshops at a national conference that focuses on this issue. Barrera’s teaching philosophy focuses on creating a dynamic classroom environment to enhance the intellectual development of students in the sciences. Her philosophy stems from her favorite quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Barrera was fortunate to have many dynamic educators in her own academic career, and therefore, she strives to “pay it forward” to her own students. She believes the best way to engage students is to help them recognize science and scientific thinking in their everyday lives. As a Welsh Scholar at St. Edwards's University in Austin, Texas, Barrera researched the structure of the serine carboxypeptidase protein while still an undergraduate.

As a graduate student at the University of Chicago, she researched the structure and function of the RNaseP Holoenzyme. She also worked and lived within the university housing system, teaching graduate students, assisting in undergraduate education and participating as a member of the Dean’s Council.

She graduated with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. After receiving the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2004, Barrera moved to Atlanta to pursue additional training. The FIRST Fellowship focuses on training the next generation of faculty in a mentored teaching and research environment.


  • Doctorate – biochemistry and molecular biology – University of Chicago
  • Bachelor’s – biochemistry – St. Edward's University

Academic Interests

  • Science education
  • Technology in the classroom
  • RNA-protein complexes
  • Bacteriophages


  • FIRST Fellowship
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Grant
  • Member – SEA Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (PHAGES) project