Deborah F. Kelly, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University Medical School in the Department of Cell Biology, will be joining the growing biomedical research enterprise in Roanoke this January, announced Michael Friedlander, executive director of Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Kelly, who now works with Tom Walz, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute senior investigator and professor of cell biology, is widely recognized as one of the leading young biomedical scientists in the important field of structural biology.  She earned her doctoral degree at Florida State University in molecular biophysics prior to joining the Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory at Harvard.

Her research uses powerful analytical techniques to visualize the dynamic behavior of interacting protein molecules and how signals are transmitted between and within cells. This work brings an unprecedented level of resolution to these processes with a technology called cryo electron microscopy. The method slows down molecular motion by extreme cooling and then bombards the molecules with a beam of electrons that has been accelerated by high voltage in a vacuum.

“This work is providing new insights into the initial signaling events that occur in normal cellular development, in such cancers as malignant brain tumors, and in normal and pathological development of the heart," said Friedlander. "We are very fortunate to have recruited Dr. Kelly to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Roanoke. She brings scientific vision, leading edge technology, and a strong computational approach to the study of fundamental life processes in health and in several classes of major diseases. Scientists and physicians at the institute, Virginia Tech, and at Carilion will all benefit from having her as a colleague.”

Kelly will be an assistant professor with the research institute and in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. She will also have an adjunct appointment in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech.


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