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Velez Defends Ph.D. Thesis

Mar 31 2020

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA — On an international Zoom conference, Gabriel Velez, an M.D., Ph.D. student in the Mahajan Lab, successfully presented his Ph.D. thesis defense seminar. 

In an hour-long oral presentation titled, “Structural and Proteomic Insights into the Pathogenesis of Intraocular Inflammation,” Gabe described his research findings on the calpain-5 protease, a cause of inherited vitreoretinal inflammation and degeneration. His data included the crystallographic structure of calpain-5 and proteomic analyses of human eye fluid.

Although the thesis committee originally planned to meet in person at the University of Iowa, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the oral presentation to be given over the vidoeconferencing software Zoom. The video conference allowed Gabe’s parents and younger brother, extended family in Puerto Rico, and friends and colleagues from around the United States to attend.

Gabe moved from the University of Iowa to Stanford University with Dr. Mahajan three years ago. During the seminar, Mahajan recognized him for his NIH grant and thirty-six peer reviewed publications.

Mahajan said, “Gabe is an outstanding, highly productive scientist, and we have great expectations that as a clinician scientist he will discover treatments to reduce blindness. It has been a privilege to train him.”

After his presentation, Gabe underwent an oral exam with thesis committee members that included his mentor Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., and, from the University of Iowa, thesis committee chair Alexander Bassuk M.D., Ph.D., MSTP Director Steven Lentz M.D., Ph.D., structural biologist Ernesto Fuentes Ph.D., and immunologist John Colgan Ph.D. 

“I want to acknowledge all of the support I’ve received from members and collaborators of the Mahajan Lab, the MSTP and Molecular Medicine graduate programs, the Iowa Sloan Center, the National Eye Institute, and core/national facilities that have helped to make all of the work we do possible,” Gabe said. “Importantly, I want to acknowledge my family and friends for their continuous support throughout my training.”

This summer Velez will return to Iowa to complete his clinical clerkships for his medical degree.

The seminar was recorded and can be watched online

Pictured above: Gabe with his mentor Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D. and his thesis committee chair Alexander Bassuk M.D., Ph.D.