(Voeltz, Gia Kaarina - 2018) -- Investigator/Alumni Investigator
Gia Voeltz’s research has fundamentally altered the way scientists understand the machinery of life’s most basic unit, redrawing the cellular map and igniting a new field that could lead to therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. To reward that innovative thinking, the philanthropic Howard Hughes Medical Institute named Voeltz one of its newest investigators, granting her $8 million over seven years to take her research wherever it may lead. Using imaging techniques that light up the inner workings of cells, her discoveries are rewriting textbooks and could have implications in treating diseases. Her lab is using cell biology, biochemistry and electron microscopy to study how membrane proteins and their partners determine the elaborate structure of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in yeast and mammalian cells. Voeltz intends to study how the ER may play a role in neurodegenerative health and why viruses tend to hide in the ER. In one paradigm-shifting paper published in Science in 2011, her team showed that the ER—by clamping down on the organs of the cell—actually influences their shape.