News and Highlights

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.


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.