Verma named Distinguished Dissertation Award winner

Monday, August 12, 2013

Deeptak Verma, a 2012 graduate with a doctorate in bioinformatics and computational biology, is this year's recipient of the Graduate School’s Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award.

 Verma was honored for the dissertation “Elucidating the Effects of Mutation and Evolutionary Divergence upon Protein Structure Quantitative Stability/Flexibility Relationships.”  During his time at UNC Charlotte, his research focused on the movement of atoms within a protein, and he co-authored nine published papers based on this research. 

“His dissertation focused on understanding how conserved protein flexibility is across protein families,” explained Dennis Livesay, dissertation co-advisor and associate professor in the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics in the College of Computing and Informatics. “In sets of evolutionarily related proteins, he used our computational model (called the Distance Constraint Model — DCM for short) to characterize the extent that these properties were conserved or not. His dissertation resulted in four peer-reviewed papers where he was the lead author, two of which were published in the prestigious journal PLoS Computational Biology.”

Katherine Hall-Hertel, assistant dean of the Graduate School, noted, “All of the nominations this year were truly excellent. Dr. Verma’s work stood out because it is both innovative and likely to have a significant impact in the treatment of disease.”

This year’s award was presented in the category of biological and life sciences. Nominated dissertations were original work that made significant contributions to the disciplines. Submissions were judged on methodological and substantive quality. Applicants must have completed their degree requirements between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013. Verma received a $1,000 prize, and his dissertation will be submitted to the national Council of Graduate School’s annual competition, where he may be eligible for an honorarium of $2,000 and a certificate of citation.

Currently, Verma holds a post-doctoral position in the Dartmouth College lab of Chris Bailey-Kellogg, an associate professor of computer science.

Photo: Deeptak Verma (middle) with UNC Charlotte researchers Donald Jacobs and Dennis Livesay.