• Melissa Victoria Fernandez, PhD MSc

    Virologist. Chemist. Educator.


    Views are my own


    I am uncovering the fundamental truths about HIV assembly and transmission to identify novel targets of antiretroviral therapies.

  • Check out my latest updates!

  • Resume/CV

    For up to date information on my credentials, download my curriculum vitae by clicking the button below

  • Publications

    Elucidating the basis for permissivity of the MT-4 T-cell line to replication of an HIV-1 mutant lacking the gp41 cytoplasmic tail.

    Fernandez, M.V., Hoffman, H.K., Pezeshkian, N., Tedbury, P.R., van Engelenburg, S.B., Freed, E.O. 2020. J. Virol. Under Review

    Fernandez, M.V., Delviks-Frankenberry, K.A., Scheiblin, D.A., Happel, C., Pathak, V., and Freed, E.O. 2019. J. Virol. PMID: 31554688

    Hoffman, H.K., Fernandez, M.V., Groves, N.S., Freed, E.O., and van Engelenburg, S.B. 2019. J. Biol. Chem. PMID: 31519756

    Buttler, C.A., Pezeshkia, N., Fernandez, M.V., Aaron, J., Norman, S., Freed, E.O., and van Engelenburg, S.B. 2018. Nat. Comm. 10;9(1):1861. PMID: 29748537

    Melissa V. Fernandez and Eric O. Freed. 2017. Cell Chem. Bio. 24(5):548-550. PMID: 28525770

    Fernandez, M.V., Miller, E., Krammer, F., Gopal, R., Greenbaum, B.D., and Bhardwaj, N. 2016. Leukoc. Biol. 99:723-734. PMID: 26574023

    Fernandez, M.V., and Gardinali, P.R. 2016. Science of the Total Environment 541:1556-1571. PMID: 26490533

    Fernandez, M.V., Miller, E.A., and Bhardwaj, N. 2014. J. Vis. Exp. 87:e51284. PMID: 24894187

    Manches, O., Fernandez, M.V., Plumas, J., Chaperot, L., and Bhardwaj, N. 2012. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109:14122-14127. PMID: 22879398

    Landrum, J.T., Chatfield, D.C., Mebel, A.M., Alvarez-Calderon, F., and Fernandez, M.V. 2010. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 493:169-174. PMID: 19850003

  • Funding/Grants

    Keeping the lights on

    K99 AI147815 (Fernandez, PI)

    Major goals: 1. Define the role of HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) trafficking in viral transmission in physiologically relevant cell types and virus strains. 2. Uncover the mechanism of HIV-1 Gag and Env interactions during virus assembly.


    R00 phase begins December 2021. Option to delay start due to COVID-19 quarantine.


    2019 - 2023

    Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship (IARF) (Fernandez, PI)

    Major goal: Define the requirement for the host trafficking proteins, FIP1C and Rab14, in HIV-1 Env cytoplasmic tail mediated trafficking during viral assembly.


    2018 - initial funding

    2019 - renewed

    Sallie Rosen Kaplan (SRK) Fellowship (Fernandez, PI)

    Major goal: Define the requirement for host trafficking protein, FIP1C, and conserved tyrosine motifs in the gp41 cytoplasmic tail in HIV-1 Env trafficking to the plasma membrane.



    F31 AI089030 (Fernandez, PI)

    Major goal: Determine the role of TLR7 and TLR9 in HIV-induced activation of indolamine 2,3-dioxygenase and its effect on the generation of regulatory T-cells.


    2010 - 2014

  • Leadership/Management


    2017 - present

    In light of the devastation Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria have caused on Puerto Rico, I put together a team of volunteers to host donation drop off points and organized a donation drive in Maryland. Together, this team collected donations from National Cancer Institute locations at Bethesda, Fort Detrick, Shady Grove, and the ATRF. We also recruited two restaurants in downtown Frederick, MD to host donation drop off boxes: JoJo's Restaurant and Tap House & Magoo's Pub and Eatery.


    Donations were handed off to the Unidos Por Puerto Rico DMV organization in Chantilly, VA.

    Frederick Chair, Newsletter Managing Editor & Contributing Writer, Annual Retreat Organizer

    2016 - present

    • Elected two consecutive years to serve as chair of the CCR-FYI Association on the Frederick campus.
    • Created the monthly meeting agenda, led monthly meetings of the Association, and reviewed and distributed meeting minutes.
    • Delegated tasks, developed agendas, and led monthly planning meetings with our sister campuses in Bethesda and Shady Grove over web video calls.
    • Led the colloquium subcommittee to plan, develop, and execute our annual 2-day scientific colloquium meeting, including recruiting: scientific experts as keynote speakers, a cancer survivor speaker, workshop presenters, and career panel participants.
    • Updated the bylaws to reflect our expanding organization and the commensurate increasing activities of the program.
    • Designed and evaluated surveys distributed to the fellows at the NIH (both postbaccalaureate and postdoctoral) to understand their training needs as members of the CCR community.
    • Advocated for the fellow community by periodically engaging with the CCR leadership, presenting their needs as assessed by surveying the population.
    • Functioned as the managing editor and a contributing writer of the seasonal newsletter for two years.
    • Worked together with my Bethesda Campus Chair to plan and execute our Annual Spring Retreat.
    • Mentored subcommittee chairs on how to perform their duties.


    2017 Annual CCR-FYI Retreat Agenda - Co-planner
    2018 Annual CCR-FYI Retreat Agenda - Subcommittee Chair


    Summer 2018 Newsletter - Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

    Spring 2018 Newsletter - Photographer/Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

    Spring/Summer 2017 Newsletter - Contributing Writer

    Fall/Winter 2017 Newsletter - Managing Editor/Contributing Writer/Advertisement Designer


    Poster for the 2018 Scientific Investigators Retreat - Author


    CCR-FYI Bylaws (2018 V1) - Managing Editor

    Co-Chair and Awards Organizer

    2016 - present

    The Annual CCR-FYI Colloquium, implemented in 2001, has been one of the most ambitious programs implemented by the CCR-FYI committee and has since become a long-standing component in the training program for more than 800 current young intramural scientists.


    This event is fully supported by the CCR leadership, and during my first year as Co-Chair in 2017, almost 300 fellows attended the Colloquium. The goals for the CCR-FYI Annual Colloquium are to provide an opportunity for research & clinical fellows to present their work to their peers, to allow young scientists a chance to explore potential career paths, and to provide a forum to learn about the exciting, groundbreaking research occurring at the NCI and at other institutions.


    As Co-chair of the Colloquium planning committee, I form a team composed of fellows from across the NCI to plan different aspects of the colloquium and manage the different subcommittee groups. I also invite the NCI and CCR directors to give remarks, recruit leaders in the field as keynote speakers, and manage the Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow, Postgraduate Fellow, and Travel Awards judging.


    Working together with my co-chair, we have streamlined the Standard Operating Procedures for colloquium planning and trained an incoming team to take over and lead the organization of the colloquium from 2019 and beyond.


    Accomplishments & Activities

    -Collaborated with CCR leadership to host the annual 2-day intramural scientific conference.
    -Mentored the vice-chair for performing chair duties upon the end of my tenure.
    -Mentored members in the planning of a diverse and inclusive scientific conference.
    -Worked successfully with committee to enhance attendance and engagement (nearly doubled registration under my tenure).
    -Led the planning, development, and execution of our annual 2-day scientific colloquium meeting, including recruiting: scientific experts as keynote speakers, a cancer survivor speaker, workshop presenters, and career panel participants.
    -Authored and co-authored reviews of sessions and events that took place during the colloquium.
    -Co-planned the 1-day Annual Spring Retreat as a decompressor for the planning committee.
    -Surveyed attendees on their experience, needs, and wants for subsequent years and reviewed responses with the committee and leadership.
    -Presented opening and closing remarks for the conference.
    -Worked with facilities and the committee to plan the logistics of the conference.
    -Planned the overall schedule and reviewed it with the committee.
    -Reworked the Standard Operating Procedures with my co-chairs and each subcommittee for reference by planning committees in subsequent years.
    -Led the Awards Subcommittee where I announced and promoted two awards: Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow (OPF) and the Outstanding Postgraduate Award (OPGF).
    -Recruited applications for OPF, distributed to volunteer judges, and ensured no conflicts of interest in judging.

    -Prepared official invitation letters and documents, and award announcements.



    Colloquium Subcommittee SOP (2018) - co-editor

    Colloquium Subcommittee SOP (2017) - co-editor


    2017 Welcome Letter

    2018 Welcome Letter


    2017 Colloquium Agenda - Planning Co-chair, Awards Subcommittee Chair

    2018 Colloquium Agenda - Planning Co-chair, Awards Subcommittee Chair

  • Links to Profiles

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  • Outreach

    Education Outreach Manager


    The Chemical Society of Washington (CSW) is the local ACS Section for the Washington, DC area and serves approximately 4,000 members.


    As one of this year's elected managers, I assist with education outreach efforts by assisting the Community Activities Committee, the Education Committee, and Project SEED.

    Volunteer Veterinary Assistant & Surgical Assistant

    2012 - 2013

    For more than 114 years, Bideawee has been the leading pet welfare organization serving metropolitan New York and Long Island. Through a vast array of services Bideawee cultivates and supports the life-long relationships between pets and the people who love them.


    As a volunteer, I assisted with wellness care, medical services, soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries, and oral health assessment & treatment.

    Volunteer Animal Handler


    Adopt NY was a league of rescue groups working to make New York No Kill. By holding large-scale adoption events in and around NYC, they've been able to introduce many New Yorkers to their newest furry family members.


    As a volunteer animal handler, I facilitated with getting the adoptable dogs more visibility by walking them and ensuring they were calm and felt safe during an excitable event. Potential adopters were directed to where they could fill out adoption forms.

    Volunteer Instructor


    Citizen Schools is an American nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools across the United States to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities.


    The course I designed focused on educating seventh graders through a basic forensic science sequence aimed at solving a crime to catch a criminal.

    During the course of the semester, I developed, supervised, and conducted lessons and activities as a Volunteer Instructor for an eleven week apprenticeship in East Harlem.

  • FAQ

    Do you have a question?

    Where am I from?

    Miami, FL

    When asked, "Where are you from?" I struggle to name one place.


    My parents were born in Cuban and came to America seeking freedom. I was born and raised in Miami, FL.


    During my undergraduate work I took a semester to study in a student exchange program in Spain at la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Certificate in Chinese Studies, I joined the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at NYU School of Medicine in New York to study the life sciences.


    After completing my graduate studies I moved to Tampa, Florida where I taught Chemistry and Earth/Space Science at the high school level. After completing my teaching contract I joined that National Cancer Institute in Maryland as a postdoctoral fellow in the HIV Dynamics and Replication Program.


    I am currently residing in Maryland.

    What are my credentials?

    Masters of Science in Chemistry and a Doctorate in Pathology

    My lifelong academic pursuit was to become a virologist and study host-pathogen interactions. Today I am committed to assisting patients affected by inflammatory diseases by delivering clinical and scientific support to healthcare professionals on products that will impact patient care and outcomes.


    I studied Chemistry at Florida International University in the laboratories of John Landrum, Richard Bone, and Piero Gardinali. My graduate work in virology took place at New York University with my final year taking place at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.


    I have experience in education and mentorship as a high school science teacher, an adjunct chemistry professor, an organic chemistry teaching assistant, and a private science tutor. I am committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences.


    You can find more at my Linkedin.

    Where am I now?

    Postdoctoral fellow at the NCI

    In my current position as a postdoctoral research fellow, I am performing pre-clinical and early development research in HIV and coronavirus.


    The overall goal of my postdoctoral studies is to gain a better understanding of the mechanism of viral transmission to identify novel targets for the development of antiviral therapeutics.

    Where am I going?

    Towards a career in virology and science & education policy.

    My over 18 years of training in the physical and biological sciences, and education have prepared me for a translational position wherein I can effectively deliver clinical and scientific support to healthcare professionals on products that will impact patient care and outcomes.

    What types of assays are you skilled at?

    Mostly virological and immunology techniques

    I am highly experienced and trained in bench ("wet”) science, Illumina RNA-seq, RT-PCR, site-directed mutagenesis, western blot, flow cytometry, cryo-ET, spreading infection assays, cell-to-cell transmission assays, viral entry assays, ELISAs, radio-immunoprecipitation, and confocal microscopy. Furthermore, I have 4 years experience in analytical techniques, such as: solid phase extraction, liquid-liquid extraction, mass spectrometry, and gas and liquid chromatography.


    During my postdoctoral training, I have been exposed to "old school" techniques, such as 35S [Cys] radio-immunoprecipitation (IP)/SDS-Page. The image to the left is an example of a 35S [Cys] radio-IP of HIV-1 proteins in a human T-cell line produced by me in 2017. + = positive control, - = negative control, ? = variable being tested.

    Do you want a copy of my publications?

    No problem!

    Kindly send me an e-mail requesting the specific publication and I will provide it for you. You can find my contact info in the "Contact Me" section.


    The caveat being the JOVE article has a video component that I can not send.

    Tell me more about work-life balance... do you have any hobbies?

    Of course!

    Even obsessed scientists take time to enjoy their hobbies! My appreciation for chemistry began as a high schooler during photography class. I spent countless hours in the dark room experimenting with developing techniques. As an adult, I still dabble in film photography and pinhole camera techniques. Additionally, many of the images on this website were taken by me during my undergraduate years at FIU in collaboration with Dr. James Quirke.


    There is also significant carry-over between lab skills and cooking/gardening. During my spare time on the weekend I am outside landscaping and cooking for the week. These actives are not chores; they are the simple pleasures of life. I am currently working on a rose garden and converting the front yard to a xeriscape native garden.


    During my graduate career, I developed a love for aerial silks, lyra, yoga, and running.

  • Contact Me

    Do you have any further questions?