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Chemistry Grad Researching Snail Venom as Opioid Alternative

Looking to nature for medicines has fascinated Paula Florez since she was a schoolgirl in Bogota, Colombia.

“In the ocean there are cone snails - marine gastropods with venom that prey on fish,” she says. “I take the venom and try to find molecules that can be used to treat pain – how molecules interact with the central nervous system. It can help find something in lieu of opioids to relieve pain.”

A high school soccer player, she was recruited by Seton Hill. “I loved it; it was a great fit. I lived in the capital of Colombia, and coming to a small town and small school was very different. When you’re completely new to another culture – from food to culture to language – being in a small place was crucial.”

Her experience as a Resident Advisor helped, she says: “If you want to learn about American culture, you are an RA for freshmen.”

After earning her degree in chemistry at Seton Hill, Florez planned to do research and teach. She chose Utah in part for its beauty. “And after Seton Hill I was looking for a sense of community. Utah is a big school, but it had that feel, and it had the academics. I was interested in nature products discovery, and the University of Utah has one of the best in the world.”

Seton Hill’s young alumni are making their mark on the world through their work in science and healthcare, finance and business, industry, entertainment and service to those in need. The Fall/Winter 2019 edition of Seton Hill’s Forward magazine featured 30 of these alumni, all under the age of 30. You can find all of their stories here on Seton Hill’s site (just look for the “30 Under 30” icon).