Curriculum Vitae

Jorge A. Cantú, PhD


2013- 2015 Postdoctoral Fellow, Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of

Anesthesia, Northwestern University

Chicago, IL

2007-2013 PhD, Neuroscience, Northwestern University Interdepartmental

Neuroscience (NUIN) Program

Chicago, IL

2003-2007 BA, Biology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Colorado Springs,


Professional Experience:


Director, Student Center for Science Engagement, College of Arts

and Sciences, Northeastern Illinois University

Chicago, IL


Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern Illinois


Chicago, IL


Co-investigator, Chicago STEM Teaching Collaborative, College of

Education, Northeastern Illinois University

Chicago, IL

2017-2022 Graduate Advisor, Department of Biology, Northeastern Illinois


Chicago, IL

2015-2021 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern Illinois


Chicago, IL

Professional Societies:

2013-Present Society for Developmental Biology

2013-Present Society for Neuroscience

2015-Present Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science


Major Fields of Research Interest:

My overall research focus is to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms of nervous

system development with particular interest in the genes responsible for the proliferation,

differentiation, and connectivity of neurons and their accessory cells. To study these

mechanisms, we use the embryonic zebrafish to study novel genes involved in the development

of the spinal cord. Our recent discovery of PIG11, and its potential role in apoptosis, has shifted

our focus on connectivity, to survival, of spinal cord neurons.

As a teacher, I am also interested in developing novel pedagogical approaches to expand

diversity in STEM, creating a culture in my classroom and laboratory that is welcoming,

inclusive, and educational. I provide my students the mentorship, academic tools, and confidence

to play to their strengths, complete their education, and find success in their careers.


A phenotypic switch of differentiated glial cells to de-differentiated cells is regulated by folate

receptor alpha, Monick, S., Mohanty, V., Khan, M., Yerneni, G., Kumar, R., Cantu, J., Ichi, S.,

Xi, G., Singh, B.R.,Tomita, T. and Mayanil, C.S., Stem Cells. 2019; 37:1441–1454.

Trans-differentiation of outer hair cells into inner hair cells in the absence of INSM1,

*Wiwatpanit, T., *Lorenzen, S.M., *Cantú, J.A., Foo, C.Z., Hogan, A.K., Márquez, F., Clancy,

J.C., Schipma, M.J., Cheatham, M.A., Duggan, A. and Garcia-Anoveros, J., 2018. Nature,

563(7733), p.691. *Contributed equally to this work.

Non-aggregating tau phosphorylation by cyclin-dependent kinase 5 contributes to motor neuron

degeneration in spinal muscular atrophy, Miller N, Feng Z, Edens BM, Yang B, Shi H, Sze CC,

Hong BT, Su S, Cantú J.A., Topczewski J, Ma YC. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015; 35(15):6038-


Mucolipin co-deficiency causes accelerated endolysosomal vacuolation of enterocytes and

failure-to-thrive from birth to weaning. PLoS genetics, Remis NN, Wiwatpanit T, Castiglioni AJ,

Flores EN, Cantú J.A., García-Añoveros J. 2014; 10(12):e1004833.

Notum homolog plays a novel role in primary motor innervation, Cantú JA, Flowers GP,

Topczewski J. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33(5):2177-87.

Other Professional Activities:

Chicago STEM Teaching Collaborative. Innovations in Science and Teaching

In close collaboration with Chicago Public Schools and the New Teacher Center, the Chicago

STEM Teaching Collaborative developed a mentorship program for middle school STEM

teachers. The project allowed us to understand the complex mentorship needs of STEM teachers

in urban “opportunity’ schools. The Chicago STEM Teaching Collaborative’s efforts resulted in

the development of a five-year training experience in STEM mentoring and leadership for

highly-skilled STEM teachers. The program that we have designed has the potential to enhance

teaching practices in the STEM classroom to meet the needs of culturally diverse learners.

Students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM will feel a greater

sense of inclusion in the classroom, demonstrate growth in academic performance, and

ultimately, aspirations for STEM post-secondary programs.

Course Design: Zebrafish in the Classroom: Authentic Research Experiences for

Undergraduates at NEIU. Innovations in Science and Teaching

As a teacher/researcher, I have designed and adapted a series of courses (from General to

Advanced Biology) that introduce students to scientific research. These courses build a

foundational structure through reading primary literature and designing small-scale experiments;

focusing on the scientific method, introducing the “language” of science, and techniques

regularly used in a modern biology laboratory. My courses build on this foundation in more

advanced courses (Cell Biology, Cancer Biology and Neurobiology) by providing open-ended

scientific questions and semester-long projects to apply their knowledge in a study of gene

function. These experiences have had a tremendous impact on our students, and several have

continued their projects as independent researchers in my laboratory and others. These students

have also had the opportunity to present their research at local and national scientific meetings,

including the NEIU Student Research Symposium, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority

Participation (LSAMP) and American Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students


Faculty Mentor/Advisor, Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program,

Broadening Participation of Underrepresented Groups in the Sciences

I also serve as a faculty mentor for students in the NIH-funded U54 Training Program for

Maximizing Access to Research Careers: Undergraduate Student Training in Academic

Research (MARC U-STAR). In this role, I helped designed a course, BIO-308: Research Skills

for students enrolled in the MARC U-STAR program. The course is structured around a series of

modules related to Psychology, Biology and Mathematics. My component (Biology module)

introduces students to zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism to study different aspects of

development. Following training in the course, students are matched with a faculty advisor for

independent research. Students that have completed the program have been 100% successful in

entering PhD programs

Panelist, Teaching Careers in Academia, Center for Power Optimization of Electro-

Thermal Systems, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (POETS), an NSF-funded


As part of their Diversity and Inclusion initiative, I served as a panelist to discuss my STEM

journey and position as an assistant professor at a primarily undergraduate institution and answer

student questions about my career. The audience for the panel included underrepresented

minority students from high school to undergraduate researchers participating in the summer

REU programs at Howard University, University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Stanford

University, and the University of Arkansas.

Invited Speaker, Inspiring Awareness Seminar, Chemistry Engineering and Medicine for

Human Health (ChEM-H) at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

As part of their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, I was invited to discuss my STEM

journey as a disabled scientist in academia. The audience for the seminar included

underrepresented minority and disabled students from the ChEM-H graduate program and Post-

Doctoral fellows from Stanford University. The title of my talk was, “You are swimming in it:

Adapting Academia for a Scientist with Spinal Cord Injury” and spoke of the special

accommodations that I have needed, and sometimes lacked, throughout my academic and

professional journey.

Local Organizer, Society for Developmental Biology Annual Meeting 2020, Chicago, IL,

Service to Scientific Community

Helped organize a local national meeting for the Society for Developmental Biology.

Responsibilities included; local meeting promotion, volunteer recruitment, seeking local

sponsorships and university participation. In addition, I helped organize outreach activities and

served as Chair and Moderator for a scientific session- Regeneration-Bridging the Gap.

Co-Director, D75 STEAM Foundation, Service to the Local Community

District 75 serves the community of Mundelein, IL. Over the last decade, the number of Latinx

students in the district has risen by over 20%. Schools in the district range from 38-16% of

students who primarily speak Spanish at home. I serve on the board of the District 75 STEAM

(Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) foundation as Co-director and Spanishinterpreter.

The D75 STEAM foundation promotes Science Technology Engineering Arts and

Mathematics activities and instruction for students from Kindergarten to 8th grade by helping to

develop STEAM activities and furnishing classrooms with the technology needed for these



Selected Courses Taught at Northeastern Illinois University


BIO 201 General Biology

BIO 301 Cell Biology

BIO 365 Neurobiology

BIO 366 Cancer Biology

BIO 392 Research Skills


BIO425 Animal Models of Human Disease

BIO436 Current Topics in Genetics