A Virginia Tech biologist is one of three faculty members from the College of Science who have been awarded prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grants by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the largest single award funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Carla Finkielstein, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science and director of the Integrated Cellular Responses Laboratory, received a $1.08 million grant to support her study of circadian control of cell division and homeostasis. Circadian mechanisms measure time on a scale of about 24 hours and adjust physiological processes to external environmental signals. The goal of this research is to address how circadian factors sense metabolic changes and act in cell-fate decisions.

“Outcomes from this work will challenge our current view of how signals are sensed in the cell and decisions are made that influence cell cycle transitions,” Finkielstein said.

Finkielstein’s research initiative also involves the recruitment and training of high school students and college undergraduates through research internships, which provides one-on-one, hands-on laboratory experiences to the students.

“These laboratory internships will permit students to develop an understanding of science concepts and skills and will produce deeper, more personal relationships with practicing scientists who can serve as role models and mentors,” she said.

Through this project, efforts will focus on recruiting K-12 students from rural and urban areas in southwest Virginia while fostering undergraduate education. The proposed research initiative includes components for training high school and graduate students from both Virginia and Latin America in advanced technologies in molecular biology while fostering social interactions and promoting collaborations with international institutions.

CAREER awards are made to outstanding young faculty members who present career development plans that effectively integrate research and education, with an emphasis on combining the excitement of research with inspired teaching. The CAREER program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards for outstanding faculty early in their profession.

Finkielstein earned her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She joined the College of Science faculty in 2005.

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