Manuel and his grandfather, Antonio Mora who continues to farm and tend his crops every day, except for Sundays which he reserves for family and church. This image was taken during a hike we shared in Santiago Tangamandapio Michoacan during December 2019, where he took Manuel to share the site and tree where his own grandfather passed.

URM Plant Scientist Highlights – Manuel Mora (he/him)

Manuel Mora (he/him) is a doctoral student in the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Developmental Program (MBIDP)  at UCLA. Born in Santa Ana, CA, Manuel was raised between California and the town of Santiago Tangamandapio in Michoacan, Mexico. Growing up he enjoyed playing soccer, but when living in Mexico he traded soccer for running. Running up the hillsides and forests in Michoacan rewarded him with scenic and vibrant views of the landscape, justifying the effort. Beyond the vibrant colorful mountainous terrain, his views included the collective work that growers dedicated to their crops in the fields. The agricultural work that Manuel did with his father while in Michoacan developed his initial interest in science which he has been able to cultivate and grow into his current area of focus: understanding how plants sense their environment and adapt their growth throughout the course of their lives.

Manuel attended Santa Ana Community College and then transferred to complete his B.S in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at UC Davis in 2017 as a McNair Scholar. While at UC Davis he conducted research in the lab of Clark Lagarias where he studied structure-function relationships in light-sensitive proteins found in cyanobacteria. In 2019, Manuel started graduate school at UCLA as a Competitive Edge Pre-Doctoral Summer Transition Fellow, and through the course of his graduate studies has received the Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship and the George G. & Betsy H. Laties Graduate Fellowship in Molecular Plant Biology. Manuel joined the Plant & Algal Mechanics Lab (PI Siobhan Braybrook) in the Summer 2020, where he is exploring the relationship between cell expansion and nutrient availability in plant roots– using genetic and advanced ‘omic’ approaches.

For Manuel, science doesn’t stop at the bench but extends into his work as a teacher and in service to the scientific community. He is currently on the board of the SACNAS at UCLA Chapter and will be serving as Graduate Student Representative for 2021, allowing him to encourage and build-up other scientists within the UCLA community. He works as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for Plant Molecular Biology where he aims to provide an inclusive and engaging learning environment for his students. He is currently looking forward to formally mentoring undergraduates in the lab so that he can help cultivate their interest in science and pay forward the mentorship he received during his earlier degree. Manuel is an active and valued member of the Plant & Algal Mechanics Lab where he plays a significant role in building community and brings an infectious joy and enthusiasm


This biography was written by Siobhan Braybrook (she/her). She is a plant and algal biologist who considers it an honor to tag along with some amazing young scientists as they change the world. She thinks cell walls are kind of amazing.

Image of Siobhan Braybrook (she/her) with "Cell Wall" written on her knuckles.