• Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCA), 2003
  • B.A., University of California at Santa Cruz, 1995


  • General Biology for Majors
  • Mechanisms of Disease
  • Molecular Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell and Molecular Methods Lab
  • Foundations of Reflection: Nature


Verónica Contreras-Shannon, Ph.D., is a Professor of Biological Sciences. She teaches a number of courses including General Biology for Majors, Cell and Molecular Methods Lab, and Toxicology. Contreras incorporates evidence-based practices like student engagement and course-based research experiences into the classes she teaches. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award from the St. Mary’s Alumni Association for excellence in teaching.

In addition to teaching, Contreras is Program Director for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (URISE) program, and previously, the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U*STAR). Both programs provide St. Mary’s students with a two-year training program designed to give them the technical, operational, and professional skills necessary to transition into research-focused higher degree programs and the biomedical or behavioral sciences workforce. Contreras is committed to training the next generation of scientists and ensuring that all undergraduates in the School of Science, Engineering, and Technology can take advantage of undergraduate research experiences and the academic benefits of research.

Contreras is actively engaged in biomedical research. Her research extensively involves undergraduate students to study 1) the mechanism of metabolic side effects associated with certain atypical antipsychotics, and 2) the role of the cytoskeleton during various cell phenomena associated with disease. In 2018, she received a Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Pilot Project Award (SC2) from the NIH to study “Specific Beta-tubulin Isotype Involvement in Foam Cell Formation and Progression of Atherosclerosis.” In 2012 and 2023, she was the recipient of the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award from the St. Mary’s Alumni Association and the Senior Faculty Research Mentoring Award from the Office of Student Research and Inquiry, respectively. Contreras has been an active member of the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) since 2005; she serves on the ASIP Leadership Council and as the Chair for Career Development Committee (2021 – 2027).

Contreras earned her bachelor’s in Biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After earning her B.A., she participated in research at Los Alamos National Lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico studying the application of supercritical fluids in polymer synthesis. Later, she earned her doctorate from the Department of Biochemistry in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences where she elucidated the role of three differentially compartmentalized isozymes of NADP+-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase in yeast.

After completing her doctoral work in 2003, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships addressing the molecular mechanisms associated with disease states. During Contreras-Shannon’s first fellowship, she examined how the regeneration of damaged muscle was influenced by inflammatory cells following injury. During her second fellowship, she studied the functional role of proteins encoded by genes that were found to be amplified in prostate cancer. She is trained in the Pathobiology of Occlusive Vascular Disease, Immunology, Muscle Regeneration, Genetics and Cancer Biology. Contreras was a first-generation college student. She was the first in her large extended family to participate in scientific research as an undergraduate and then pursue a doctorate in the biomedical sciences.  When Contreras is not “actively” being a scientist, she spends time with her family and pets. When she had time for hobbies, they used to include puzzles, yoga, hiking, natural science illustration, and a love for birds.


Stertz L, Contreras-Shannon V, Monroy-Jaramillo N, Sun J, Walss-Bass C.  BACE1-Deficient Mice Exhibit Alterations in Immune System Pathways. Molecular neurobiology 2018, 55(1), 709–717. PMID: 28004339

Gray C and Contreras-Shannon V. Research and Teaching: Using Models from the Literature and Iterative Feedback to Teach Students to Construct Effective Data Figures for Poster Presentations. J College Science Teaching 2017; 46(3): 74-82.

Torres A, and Contreras-Shannon V. Characterization of Beta Tubulin Isotypes During Foam Cell Formation. 2017.bioRxiv 141457; doi: (preprint)

Contreras-Shannon V, Heart D*, Catano G, Maffi S, Navaira E, and Walss-Bass C. Clozapine-induced mitochondria alterations and inflammation in brain and insulin-responsive cells. PLoS One 2013 Mar; 8(3):e59012.

Winklmeier A, Contreras-Shannon V, Arndt S, Melle C, Bosserhoff A-K. Cadherin-7 interacts with melanoma inhibitory activity protein and negatively modulates melanoma cell migration. Cancer Sci 2009 Feb; 100(2):261-8.

Shireman PK, Contreras-Shannon V, Ochoa O, Karia BP, Michalek JE, McManus LM. MCP-1 deficiency causes altered inflammation with impaired skeletal muscle regeneration. J Leukoc Biol 2007 Mar; 81(3):775-785.

Contreras-Shannon V, Ochoa O, Reyes-Reyna SM, Sun D, Michalek JE, Kuziel WA, McManus LM, Shireman PK. Fat accumulation with altered inflammation and regeneration in skeletal muscle of CCR2-/- mice following ischemic injury. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 2007 Feb; 292(2):c953-c967.

Shireman PK, Contreras-Shannon V, Reyes-Reyna SM, Robinson SC, McManus LM. MCP-1 parallels inflammatory and regenerative responses in ischemic muscle. J Surg Res 2006 Jul; 134(1):145-157.

Zúñiga JE, Groppe JC, Cui Y, Hinck CS, Contreras-Shannon V, Pakhomova ON, Yang J, Tang Y, Mendoza V, López-Casillas F, Sun L, Hinck AP. Assembly of TbetaRI:TbetaRII:TGFbeta ternary complex in vitro with receptor extracellular domains is cooperative and isoform-dependent. J Mol Biol. 2005 Dec; 354(5):1052-1068. PMID: 16289576 

Contreras-Shannon V, Lin AP, McCammon MT, McAlister-Henn L.. Kinetic properties and metabolic contributions of yeast mitochondrial and cytosolic NADP+-specific isocitrate dehydrogenases. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb; 280(6):4469-4475. PMID: 15574419

Contreras-Shannon V and McAlister-Henn L. Influence of compartmental localization on the function of yeast NADP+-specific isocitrate dehydrogenases. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2004 Mar; 423(2):235-246. PMID: 15001388

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