Spotlight On… Cristina Espinosa da Silva, PhD, MPH

As told to URBAN ARCH Admin Core staff, June 2024

Tell us about your background and why you decided to go into the field of HIV research.

I was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to a Portuguese mother and a Mexican father but spent most of my childhood in sunny San Diego, California surrounded by beautiful palm trees and beaches. After going to college in Boston, I became interested in HIV research during my MPH program when I worked as an interviewer for the CDC’s National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) survey in Houston, Texas. It was a great first exposure to quantitative research involving HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and was also a valuable experience in field epidemiology. During my doctoral program, I then became involved in HIV prevention research among multiple key populations at risk for HIV infection in the Mexico-US border region and other international settings.

(L-R) Robin Fatch, Cristina Espinosa da Silva attending the 2024 URBAN ARCH Annual Meeting

How did you become involved with URBAN ARCH, and how have you utilized URBAN ARCH resources in regards to training & mentoring?

I became involved with URBAN ARCH when I began my Postdoctoral Fellowship at UCSF with Dr. Judy Hahn, who is the Principal Investigator of the Uganda ARCH Cohort. I have attended the URBAN ARCH annual meetings and have also benefited from the program’s wonderful career resources including networking events at conferences and creating opportunities for early stage investigators like me to meet and receive mentoring from senior HIV scientists.

How have you benefitted from the mentoring relationships you have built through your work?

I’ve received mentoring from various URBAN ARCH senior investigators who have given me helpful guidance regarding my career and professional development, including brainstorming about funding opportunities and connecting me with other scientists who may be interested in collaborating.

(L-R) Judy Hahn, Cristina Espinosa da Silva, Robin Fatch

Tell us about the projects you’re currently working on, and where you see your research going in the future.

Currently, my international research focuses on better understanding the impact of alcohol use among individuals living with HIV in various global settings. In terms of my domestic research, I was recently awarded funding to investigate whether lab tests and other health data can be used with machine learning methods to predict alcohol and opioid use among people living with HIV in the All of Us Study. My future research will continue to focus on the role of alcohol and other substances among populations with or at risk for HIV infection.

What is one thing people would find surprising to learn about you?

I really enjoy kayaking in the ocean!

Any other comments?

URBAN ARCH has been a really great professional resource – I encourage others to reach out to the friendly and highly accomplished senior investigators who serve as mentors for this program!

(L-R) Christophe Stove, Cristina Espinosa da Silva, Priya Chirayil, Judy Hahn, Julianne Jett, Marty Javors, Nathalie Hill-Kapturczak, at RSA 2023.