Dr. Alicia Meléndez
Professor, Department of Biology 

Research Focus: Developmental genetics and autophagy in C. elegans.  

Dr. Meléndez grew up in Puerto Rico, until she left for college abroad. She received her BA degree from Princeton University. She worked with Dr. Eric Wieschaus for her undergraduate thesis research studying cytoplasmic streaming in the mutant quail in Drosophila. Here she developed a lifelong love for studying development.


Dr. Meléndez received her PhD degree in Biology from Columbia University, in the department of Biological Sciences, where she performed her thesis work with Dr. Daniel D. Kalderon. Here, she studied again the role of a kinase DC2 in the development of the Drosophila fruit fly.


For postdoctoral training, Dr. Meléndez trained with Dr. Iva S. Greenwald in C. elegans genetics in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. In her postdoctoral work, she showed that LIN-13 behaves as a class B SynMuv protein and that it contained multiple zinc fingers and a motif, LXCXE, implicated in binding the tumor suppressor protein Rb. She then took a position to study autophagy in a genetic model system, in the laboratory of Dr. Beth Levine. Here, she chose to study autophagy in C. elegans, and was the first to describe a role for autophagy in metazoan development, and aging. Dr. Meléndez showed that BEC-1/BECN1 and several other autophagy genes are required for dauer development and for longevity.


In 2006, Dr. Meléndez became an Assistant Professor in the department of Biology at Queens College. Her lab continues to study the role of autophagy in C. elegans development, with an emphasis on the role of autophagy in the germline stem cell proliferation and meiotic fidelity. Dr. Meléndez has mentored graduate and undergraduate students, and many of her students have received national and Queens College recognition. She received The Graduate Center at the City University of New York Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2020. Dr. Meléndez is a regional member of the Nathan Shock Center for Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She was promoted to Full Professor in 2017. She is a core faculty member of the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology PhD Program, as well as the Biochemistry PhD Program at The Graduate School of the City University of New York. She is a founding member of the Women in Autophagy Network, became the Undergraduate Research Office Director in 2023, a Regular Member of the National Institute of Health Cellular Mechanisms of Aging and Development Study Section since 2021, and a member of the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center (CGC) since 2020.