Neurology Pathways: Jessica Morales

Clinical Research Coordinator, Department of Neurology

Jessica's Pathway:


Where were you born and raised? What is your favorite part of your hometown?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to a Mexican mother and a Salvadoran father. I am the oldest of three girls. Growing up, we often faced hardships as a family. However, we always had each other and still do to this day, for which I am beyond grateful. I would not be where I am today if not for my family.

My favorite part of LA is the wide range of things to do and its geographical features. From mountains to the beaches, there is always something to explore. And of course, the endless choices of delicious food!

What is your current clinical research focus in Alzheimer's disease?

My current focus in Alzheimer’s disease is engaging high school students in Neurology to raise awareness and education about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).


What motivates you in your work in the neurology department?

My family motivates me the most. As the first in my family to go to college, it is a significant milestone that continues to encourage me to keep pushing forward and pursue what my heart desires. Therefore, as a Latina woman, it is important to me to increase diversity so we can reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes among underrepresented communities.

What are some influential moments in your career journey? How did these help you get to where you are today?

I think one of the most important decisions I have made was to return to school. I began at Los Angeles Trade-Tech and received my Associate degree in Natural Sciences. During my time there, I took a psychology class, and I was fascinated. Growing up, I always wondered what the driving factors were shaping one's character and personality. As a result, I transferred to my dream school, UCLA, and graduated with my Bachelor's in Psychology. During my time at UCLA, I got involved with volunteering in an education psychology lab and an addictions lab, and I enjoyed it. I also began a work-study position in the Neurology department with Dr. Mario Mendez. I enjoyed learning about dementia research, and I began my Staff Research Associate position upon graduating. I have been involved with dementia research since. Another important and influential moment was the opportunity to help write a NIH grant for a summer program for high school students. This gave me the opportunity to dive into the ADRD literature, and it really opened my eyes to the severity of health disparities within the communities. Recently, I completed my Master's of Public Health program at USC, and I look forward to continue growing within the Mary S. Easton Center.


What advice would you give to someone interested in pursing clinical research?

Get involved in volunteering in research labs and build connections to network. It is important to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, which I try to continuously do myself. Also, do not be afraid or shy to ask for help. It is better to ask questions than to make decisions unknowingly.

What is your favorite part of working at UCLA?

I enjoy working with the strong, empowering women I am surrounded with. I like to surround myself with individuals who inspire and encourage me to do and be a better version of myself.


How do you spend your time outside of work? What is your favorite hobby?

I love spending quality time with my family. I enjoy catching Dodger games with my son, Adrian, listening to music and going to concerts, and reading self-help, philosophy, and classic literature books. I also enjoy playing the piano, which I am currently teaching myself.

What is a professional goal that you are working towards now?

Currently, I am helping with the design and establishment of a summer program for high school students from underrepresented communities to expose them and encourage them to pursue a career in neuroscience, specifically in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of culturally competent leaders and increase diversity in the field.