News and Highlights

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.


Cville Weekly Article, UVA researchers zero in on ebola “cure”

Ebola. The flu. The common cold. None of them have cures, or even adequate prevention drugs because they evolve and splay into thousands—possibly millions—of varying strains each year. Cell Biology faculty Judy White and Lukas Tamm are featured in the Cville Weekly. Read the full article here.

TearSolutions, Inc., a company spun out of NEI-supported research from the Laurie lab in Cell Biology, just closed its Series B funding of $8.5M.

TearSolutions, Inc., a company spun out of NEI-supported research from the Laurie lab in Cell Biology, just closed its Series B funding of $8.5M. This support was needed to carry the company forward through its current phase 2 trial of ‘Lacripep’ in 201 primary Sjogren’s Syndrome dry eye patients at 27 sites nationwide. If of interest click here.
Follow trial progress here.

The Executive Chairman and Cofounder of TearSolutions is Charlottesville’s Mark Logan, former Chairman, CEO and President of VISX, Inc (invented, obtained FDA approval and commercialized LASIK). TearSolutions President/CEO is Tom Gadek, PhD, a Berkeley chemist who invented the dry eye drug now known as Xiidra. Other members of TearSolutions information here.

Professor Bob Bloodgood, recipient of a 2017 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Department of Cell Biology is proud to announce that Professor Bob Bloodgood is the recipient of a 2017 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Through the years, Bob has been revered for his educational contributions and leadership in the graduate and medical curricula at the School of Medicine, and his interest and support of education has extended beyond the University both locally and nationally. As well, he has been a leading force in developing a program of research on medical and graduate education at the School of Medicine. Medical students who have taken the preclinical NextGen curriculum enthusiastically joined together to nominate and support Bob’s recognition through this award.

UVA startup, TearSolutions Inc, co-founded by Cell Biology’s Gordon Laurie, featured in Annual Report from UVA’s Licensing and Ventures Group

The recently released Annual Report from UVa’s Licensing and Ventures Group includes a feature on the history and progress of TearSolutions, Inc., a UVa startup cofounded by Cell Biology’s Gordon Laurie.  TearSolutions was the first recipient of the new UVa Seed Fund, and currently has in Phase I/II Clinical Trial a novel treatment for ‘Dry Eye Disease’ based on the National Eye Institute-supported discovery of ‘lacritin’ in the Laurie lab.  A July 31, 2017 NY Times article by Jane Brody on Dry Eye and a National Eye Institute press release marking July as ‘Dry Eye Awareness Month’ mention of lacritin.  Progress on lacritin and the trial can be followed at

Promotion of Adrian Halme to Associate Professor

Adrian Halme has been promoted to Associate Professor of Cell Biology effective July 1st. This is in recognition of his innovative research program on regeneration and growth control using the Drosophila model, as well as his well-known effectiveness as an educator of undergraduates, graduate students and medical students.


BIMS Student Kelly Barford featured in UVA Health Systems Pulse Magazine

For 25-year-old Kelly Barford, a fourth-year neuroscience graduate student working in the Winckler Lab, just keeping her schedule straight is a challenge. Each week she juggles time in her research lab, science classes she teaches in area elementary schools, and leadership roles in “Women in Math and Science” and “Science Delivered Charlottesville.” Recently, Barford took an hour in a coffee shop (coffee is pretty much a staple of her diet) to answer a few questions about the BIMS program—an interdisciplinary graduate program that prepares PhD students to become scientific leaders—and her personal path.

Read the article here.

Congratulations to Dr. Adrian Halme, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, recipient of the 2017 UVa Medical Education Fellowship Award

We are pleased to announce that Adrian Halme, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, is the recipient of one of the 2017 UVa Medical Education Fellowship Awards from the Dean’s Office. This award will fund release time for Adrian’s further development of a writing workshop available to 1st year graduate students in all of the BIMS PhD programs. This Workshop was developed in collaboration with Jim Casanova, Professor of Cell Biology, and a number of BIMS faculty serve as mentors for the participating students. The workshop is focused on developing actual fellowship applications, some of which have been submitted to external funding agencies and resulted in funded fellowships for graduate students. Development of effective writing skills is a crucial tool for the success of future scientists and educators.