Melanie Cocco, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Her research interests include membrane proteins and NMR spectroscopy. Professor Cocco was the first to obtain the structure of the extracellular domain of Nogo, a membrane protein known to inhibit axonal growth within the central nervous system (CNS). Currently, Professor Cocco is working to identify binding partners of the Nogo extracellular domain utilizing the structural data obtained in her lab. The identification of strong binding partners could lead to novel treatments for CNS injury.
Since her early childhood, Professor Cocco has been a curious person. She would often spend time in the kitchen mixing different ingredients, not to come up with a new soup recipe, but in order to observe how the ingredients would react. It was this early curiosity that lead her to want to become a scientist. “I never thought of becoming anything else,” she says.
Professor Cocco attended Virginia Tech as an undergraduate and obtained a B.S. in Chemistry. After graduation, she went to Pennsylvania State University to pursue an advanced degree. After completing her doctoral thesis, she worked as a postdoctoral scholar at Yale University before coming to UCI.
In addition to her success as an Biological Sciences School researcher, Professor Cocco is the proud mother of two successful daughters. During her off time, she enjoys spending time with her daughters, providing both a fully stocked laundry room and hearty meal for their return visits. She also enjoys keeping in shape so don’t be surprised if you see her jogging around the university, or showing off her moves to the undergraduate dance teams training around ring road.