Graduate Highlight

Caroline VelezCaroline Velez is a Ph.D. graduate student in the Chemistry Department and is currently performing research in the group of Dr. Orlando Acevedo. Caroline is a bilingual, first-generation student whose family is from rural Colombia. Raised in Long Island, NY, she attended Adelphi University where she earned a B.S. degree in chemistry with a minor in mathematics. During her time at Adelphi, Caroline performed undergraduate research under the tutelage of Dr. Maria C. Nagan, a computational biochemist, that centered on employing molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate what thermodynamic principles govern the greater stability of siRNA duplexes with purine and pyrimidine 3’ overhanging bases, which are known to play a vital role in gene silencing.

Caroline was awarded a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship by the Florida Education Fund in 2018 to pursue her Ph.D. degree at the University of Miami. Her current research covers an expansive number of applications and technical areas in computational chemistry that include protein dynamics, drug discovery, machine learning, catalysis of organic reactions, and environmentally friendly solvents. For example, Caroline has been studying a family of enzymes called protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), which act in pathways for DNA repair, transcription, apoptosis, and cell proliferation. Caroline has been applying enhanced computational tools aimed at understanding the link between PRMT dysregulation and cancer. On a separate project, Caroline has been exploring the role that an environmentally friendly set of solvents called deep eutectic solvents may play in the creation of biofuels as an alternative to current fossil fuels. “Caroline is a highly intelligent and creative student that is well-deserving of all of her successes. I have little doubt that she will be a future leader in the field of computational chemistry.” said Dr. Acevedo, Professor of Chemistry.

Caroline was awarded the 2022-2023 College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Academic Year Dissertation Award that reflects the quality of her accomplishments as a doctoral student. She has also received awards and honors that include a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship Honorable Mention and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention.

Caroline is expected to graduate with her Ph.D. degree in the Spring of 2023. A fun fact is that Caroline is a former figure skating and an avid fan of all winter sports.

Caroline’s publications are as follows:

(1) Velez, C.; Acevedo, O. “Simulation of Deep Eutectic Solvents: Progress to Promises.” WIREs Comput. Mol. Sci., 2022, e1598. doi:10.1002/wcms.1598.

(2) Gangireddy, M.S.R., Badavath, V.N., Velez, C., Loeanurit, N., Thakur, A., Maddipati, V.N., Katari, N.K., Acevedo, O., Boonyasuppayakorn, S., Gundla, R. “Discovery of 3-chlorobenzyllinked 1,9 diazaspiro[5.5]undecane derivatives, a lead for Dengue virus type 2 infection.” New J. Chem., 2022, 46, 1087-1098. doi:10.1039/D1NJ02453A.

(3) Price, O.M.; Thakur, A.; Ortolano, A.; Towne, A.; Velez, C.; Acevedo, O.; Hevel, J.M. “Naturally occurring cancer-associated mutations disrupt oligomerization and activity in Protein Arginine Methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1).” J. Biol. Chem., 2021, 297, 101336. doi:10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101336.

(4) Zhong, X.; Velez, C.; Acevedo, O. “Partial Charges Optimized by Genetic Algorithms for Deep Eutectic Solvent Simulations.” J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2021, 17, 3078-3087. doi:10.1021/acs.jctc.1c00047.

(5) Velez, C., Doherty, B., Acevedo, O. “Accurate Diels-Alder Energies and Endo Selectivity in Ionic Liquids using the OPLS-VSIL Force Field.” Int. J. Mol. Sci., 2020, 21, 1190. doi:10.3390/ijms21041190.