Vanessa Orozco PhD

Vanessa Ochoa

Contact Information

Faculty Appointment

Assistant Professor of Medical Education, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience

Administrative Appointments

MBS Program Director


Bachelor of Science (Biology): The University of California, Riverside (Riverside, California) 2006
Ph.D. in Neuroscience: The University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont) 2015


Dr. Ochoa is a native of the Inland Empire (IE). She grew up in Fontana and in 2006 received her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside. In 2015 she received her Doctoral degree in Neuroscience from the University of Vermont. She completed her post-doctoral training at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). At UCI, Dr. Ochoa largely focused on her research, with the goal of identifying circulating microRNAs in the CSF released by the choroid plexus in response to nicotine self-administration. Additionally, during her time at UCI, Dr. Ochoa was awarded the Tobacco-Related Disease Research program postdoctoral fellowship. However, a passion for teaching was ignited when Dr. Ochoa was given the opportunity to teach a neurobiology course at UCI. Soon afterward she joined the Southern California University of Health Sciences as an adjunct professor, dedicating her time to teaching students interested in pursuing a career within the health care field.

Growing up in the IE, Dr. Ochoa has first-hand knowledge of an underserved population that exist within the community. Her personal passion of not only being a role model but also serving the community through teaching and mentoring, IE students interested in pursuing a higher education, has led her to the California University of Science and Medicine.

Research Description

Dr. Ochoa's research interest is to further understand the involvement of cholinergic signaling and neurological disorders. Cholinergic signaling is known to be involved in attention, learning, memory, and extensively in early nervous system development. Aberrant cholinergic signaling, too much, too little, extended or prolonged, may negatively affect these processes and therefore the identification of proteins that can modulate cholinergic signaling becomes of significant interest. It is for this reason a superfamily of endogenous genes, ly-6/uPAR, has been identified. The ly-6/uPAR superfamily genes encode for proteins known to interact with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and modulate the way they respond to acetylcholine. Dr. Ochoa is interested in determining the expression and involvement of ly-6/uPAR proteins in neurological disorders that are partially contributed by a disruption in the cholinergic system, such as Alzheimer's disease.