Dr. Zavaleta was born and raised in a small border town in South Texas, near Mexico. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Medicine at the University of Incarnate Word, a small private university in San Antonio. After graduating, she started in the Medical Physics graduate program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where she focused on utilizing radioactive nanoparticles for the treatment of ovarian cancer. After receiving her Ph.D., she began a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University under the guidance of Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, where she helped pioneer a new molecular imaging strategy that utilizes Raman nanoparticles for cancer detection. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California in the department of Biomedical Engineering. Her lab focuses on providing physicians with new nano-based molecular imaging tools to improve cancer detection and treatment.