News and Highlights

Four cell biology faculty become MilliPub Club members in 2018

Four cell biology faculty members have recently joined the SoM’s MilliPub Club by having one of their publications garner 1000 or more cumulative citations.  Bernard Thisse and Christine Thisse have each received this recognition for their 2008 paper in Nature Protocols entitled: “High-resolution in situ hybridization to whole-mount zebrafish embryos”.  This protocol has now become the standard protocol in virtually all zebrafish labs around the world.  Noelle Dwyer’s MilliPub paper was published in Science in 1993 and is entitled: “An osmosensing signal transduction pathway in yeast.”  Chan Choo Yap received this recognition for her 2005 paper inScience on “Antisense transcription in the mammalian transcriptome.” The department congratulates all four of these faculty for their achievement; citation by one’s professional peers is certainly one of the more important measures of the impact of our scholarship.

Jim Casanova and Bettina Winckler will be new Co-Directors of the Cell & Developmental Biology Graduate Program

Dr. Doug DeSimone, Chair of Cell Biology, has announced that Dr. James Casanova and Dr. Bettina Winckler, both Professors in the Department of Cell Biology, have been appointed as Co-Directors of the Cell & Developmental Biology Graduate Program.  Both of these researchers have extensive experience in training PhD students in their laboratories, teaching graduate courses and administering graduate programs.  Dr. DeSimone expressed the department’s appreciation to Dr. Ann Sutherland, who has been the Director of Graduate Studies for cell Biology for the past four years.


Jessica Neville Little awarded NIH F30 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award

The Department of Cell Biology congratulates Jessica Neville Little, an MSTP (MD-PhD) student working in Dr. Noelle Dwyer’s laboratory, who has been awarded an NIH F30 Pre-Doctoral National Research Service Award, a fellowship program for MD/PhD students. The title of her funded project is “Defective abscission and apoptosis of neural progenitor cells in a novel model of microcephaly”. The goal of the research is to understand how mutation of the kinesin Kif20b motor protein results in microcephaly through apoptotic pathways.

Katrina McNeely awarded Wagner graduate fellowship

Congratulations to Katrina McNeely for being awarded a Wagner Graduate Fellowship.  Katrina is a graduate student in the Neurosciences Graduate Program and is conducting her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Noelle Dwyer in Cell Biology. She is studying the Kinesin6 family member Kif20b which is involved in cytokinesis in the developing brain; it plays an important role in regulating adult brain size.

Pooja Sonavane awarded PhD in Cell Biology on May 20, 2018

Cell Biology graduate student Pooja Rajendra Sonavane was awarded her PhD during UVa’s graduation ceremonies on Sunday, May 20th.  Her dissertation is entitled: “Mechanistic role of forces in the regulation of morphogenetic movements during gastrulation”. She is shown here with her proud dissertation advisor, Doug DeSimone.

Crystal Monique Richardson awarded PhD in Cell Biology

Cell Biology graduate student Crystal Monique Richardson participated in the UVa’s graduation ceremonies on Sunday, May 20th.  She had officially been awarded her PhD in Cell Biology on December 21, 2017. Her dissertation is entitled: “Integration of PDGF and adhesive cell signaling in Xenopus mesendoderm migration. She is shown here with proud dissertation advisor, Doug DeSimone.

Biotechnology Training Program Accepts New Students for 2018

The Biotechnology Training Program housed in Cell Biology is proud to announce the 2018 entering class of: Ivan Basurto, Merci Best, Rachel Bour, Shayla Clark, Andrew Heindel and Xavier Horton from host labs in Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Biology, Cell Biology and Chemistry.  The Program currently comprises 28 doctoral students (36% diverse) and 62 faculty, and boasts 58 graduates.’  For information on the Program, check out

Rachel Silski is new Senior Administrative Assistant to the Chair

Doug DeSimone, Chair of Cell Biology, is delighted to announce that Rachel Silski is his new Senior Administrative Assistant effective April 2nd. Rachel has worked previously as Assistant to the Chair of Psychiatry at UVA and before that was a Senior Administrative Assistant for the UVA General Counsel’s office. Since 2016 she has worked as a paralegal at a local law firm. Rachel is pleased to be back at UVA and we are pleased to benefit from her extensive knowledge of the University and its School of Medicine. In her off time, Rachel plays on a recreational softball team, participates in obstacle course racing and spends time with her husband and two dogs.

2018 Whitfield Randolph Scholarship Award Winner

Congratulations to Jessica Neville Little, co-recipient of this year’s Whitfield Randolph Scholarship in Neuroscience.  Jessica is an MSTP (MD-PhD) student in her 3rd year of graduate training in Dr. Noelle Dwyer’s laboratory in the Department of Cell Biology. The other co-recipient is Mark Rudolph, an MSTP student working in Dr. Jeffrey Corwin’s laboratory in the Department of Neuroscience.

The scholarship was established by Dr. Randolph Whitfield, a MacArthur Foundation Fellow who received both his medical and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia in 1965 under a similar dual degree program.

Jessica is studying the causes of small brain size in a genetic mouse model of human microcephaly. She has discovered that the major cause of microcephaly, in this case, is programmed cell death of neural stem cells that is dependent on the tumor suppressor gene p53. In a very exciting finding, she was able to rescue the microcephaly phenotype of this mutant (in the gene Kif20b) by crossing it to a knockout mouse lacking p53. Now she is working to determine whether the p53 activation in the mutant brains is caused by specific defects in a late step in cell division called abscission.


Bob Bloodgood receives 2018 Mulholland Award

At an award ceremony on February 23rd, faculty member Bob Bloodgood received one of the 2018 Mulholland Awards for Teaching Excellence in the Next Generation Medical Curriculum at UVa. He is the Thread Leader for Cell Biology and normal histology in the medical curriculum. This is a particularly meaningful medical teaching award because its recipients are chosen by the 2nd year medical school class at the end of the Pre-Clerkship phase of their MD training.