Colina, a linguist, is an expert in theoretical phonology and translation studies. Her work in translation studies extends outward into medical, social services and social justice fields, which is of significant importance to the university's mission as a Hispanic Serving Institution, and in Pima County, where Hispanics make up 37.6% of the population.
Colina's 2009 book, "Spanish Phonology: A Syllabic Perspective," is considered by many experts to be the most significant contribution to the discipline in the 21st century.
Colina's research has had a significant impact on a variety of areas in the health sciences, including audiology. She has affiliate status in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences in the College of Science and serves as a co-principal investigator or collaborator on many national and international research grants. In 2008, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she designed a research-informed evaluation tool to assess the quality of translations produced in the health care field. In recognition of her work, she was given a leadership award by the National Hispanic Medical Association in 2009.
Colina has served as an academic adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Weather Service and the national Medical Spanish Taskforce, and as an expert adviser and scientific committee member for the Research Institute of United States Spanish.