Rolls to Receive the 2011 Junior Career Recognition Award from ASCB

Melissa Rolls, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, has been selected to receive the 2011 Junior Career Recognition Award given by the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB).

Rolls studies the cell biology behind signaling in neurons -- nerve cells that receive information from the outside world, process it, store it, and send signals to output cells, such as muscle cells. She uses the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to study how proteins are located at different places in neurons. By using Drosophila, she can apply powerful genetic and live-imaging techniques to better understand how neurons are organized and to identify causes of neurodegenerative diseases.

In particular, Rolls focuses on how microtubules, the tracks for long-range transport in neurons, are organized within axons -- the part of the nerve that sends signals -- and dendrites -- the part of the neuron that receives signals -- and how their organization contributes to microtubule-based transport. Disruptions in microtubule-based transport frequently result in disease-causing degeneration of the motor neuron. The Rolls lab has also recently found that microtubules are key players in repairing neurons after injury.

Rolls previously has been honored with a Pew Scholar Award in the Biomedical Sciences in 2009, an American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant in 2008, a March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award in 2008, a Young Investigator Award from the Mental Health Research Association in 2006, an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2006, and a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2003.

Rolls was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, from 2001 to 2007. She earned a doctorate in biological and biomedical sciences at Harvard University in 2001 and a bachelor's degree in biology at Yale University in 1995. Since joining Penn State in February 2007 as an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, she has founded the Center for Cellular Dynamics within the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

The purpose of the ASCB is to promote and develop the field of cell biology through the scholarly dissemination of research at its meetings and in its publications. The WICB Committee, which was founded in the 1970's and became a standing committee of the ASCB in 1992, recognizes outstanding achievements in cell biology by presenting a Junior and a Senior Career Recognition Award at the ASCB Annual Meeting. The Junior Award is given to a woman in an early stage of her career who is making exceptional scientific contributions to cell biology and who exhibits the potential for continuing a high level of scientific endeavor and leadership.

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Last Updated May 16, 2011