Hand to Hold is excited to announce that current board member, Lydia M. Contreras, PhD, has been named Chair of the Board for 2022. Dr. Contreras has served on Hand to Hold’s Board of Directors since 2019.
Dr. Contreras is an Associate Professor and the Laurence E. McMakin Jr. Centennial Fellow of Chemical Engineering and a member of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas-Austin.
“The start of my motherhood journey was like my career as an engineer, scientist and college professor: complex, intricate, and requiring meticulous observation and planning,” says Dr. Contreras, whose twins, Caysa and Riley were born premature and required an extended stay in the NICU.
A recipient of Hand to Hold’s support while in the NICU, Dr. Contreras then became a volunteer peer mentor, guiding new NICU parents through the journey with one-on-one support. She joined the board of directors in 2019, where she continues to prioritize vital support for parents in the NICU and in the crucial weeks and months after coming home.
“As a NICU mom, I am committed to ensuring that every NICU baby and their caretakers thrive in growing, developing and enjoying every moment of their unique journeys.”
Dr. Contreras obtained a B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University, where she graduated Cum Laude and completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University. As a postdoctoral associate at the Wadsworth Center (New York State Department of Health), she focused on understanding mechanisms of infection in pathogenic bacteria. She began her career at the University of Texas-Austin in 2011, where she leads a research team focused on RNA biochemistry to study mechanisms that regulate gene expression for applications in early disease detection.
For Dr. Contreras, each hospital visit was a precious and critical opportunity to bond with her twins, which led her to co-found Griö Feeding Systems, the first and only bottle system designed for caretakers to actively enhance their child’s development while increasing their bonds. She lives in Austin with her husband Chris and their twins.