Ilya J. Finkelstein, Ph.D.

The featured outstanding New PI for October 2017 is Ilya J. Finkelstein, Ph.D.!

Dr. Finkelstein is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences and a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research at The University of Texas-Austin. His lab’s long-term mission is to understand the pathways that allow cells to reprogram and repair their genomes with extraordinary fidelity. Current lab interests include the biophysical mechanisms of human DNA repair, CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity, and cellular aging. Dr. Finkelstein’s interdisciplinary team of biologists, physicists, and engineers also develops new microfluidic and single-molecule imaging tools to tackle these questions with unprecedented resolution.

Dr. Ilya Finkelstein received his B.S. from the University of California at Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Stanford University with Professor Michael D. Fayer. Dr. Finkelstein’s graduate research tackled the question of how a protein’s structural fluctuations are coupled to the solvation environment. Dr. Finkelstein discovered that proteins retain most of their mobility even when surrounded by as few as two aqueous solvation layers. Indeed, protein dynamics persist even when a protein is encapsulated in a glassy matrix at room temperature.

In 2007, Dr. Finkelstein moved to the group of Prof. Eric C. Greene at Columbia University Medical Center as an NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow. At Columbia University, Dr. Finkelstein’s research focused on addressing a fundamental and unresolved question in nucleic acid biochemistry: How does molecular crowding alter the behavior of DNA-binding proteins? Dr. Finkelstein focused on how DNA-binding motor proteins move on crowded DNA. His work directly visualized collisions between proteins as they travel along crowded DNA and provided a mechanism underpinning how these molecular traffic jams may be resolved in our genomes.

Dr. Finkelstein is a recipient of the NIH “Pathway to Independence” (K99/R00) award, and was named a Fellow by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. He was named a Junior Fellow by American Federation for Aging Research in 2014 and received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015.

Learn more about Dr. Finkelstein’s research here:

Rebecca B. Riggins, Ph.D.

The featured outstanding New PI for July 2017 is Rebecca B. Riggins, PhD!

Rebecca B. Riggins is an Assistant Professor of Oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC), Georgetown University Medical Center. Her laboratory studies estrogen-related receptors – orphan members of the nuclear receptor superfamily – in breast and brain cancers. Her group’s long-term mission is to translate their knowledge of the cellular and molecular functions of these proteins in cancer into actionable therapeutic approaches. Dr. Riggins also has a long-standing interest in invasive lobular breast cancer, a special histologic subtype of breast cancer with distinctly different underlying biology, clinical presentation, and treatment response when compared to the more common invasive ductal breast cancer.

Dr. Riggins received a B.A. in Biochemistry from Hood College, and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Virginia. Supported by an NCI-funded T32 fellowship, her graduate research focused on molecular mechanisms of c-Src tyrosine kinase activation and cell migration. Dr. Riggins then joined the Tumor Biology Training Program at Georgetown University as a postdoctoral fellow, where she studied molecular mechanisms of endocrine therapy-resistant breast cancer supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In 2006, Dr. Riggins became a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology, LCCC supported by an award from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. In 2011, she was promoted to Assistant Professor on the Tenure Track, supported by the NIH and a Career Catalyst Research Grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In addition to her research, Dr. Riggins co-directs the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Tumor Biology’s core course, Cellular and Molecular Aspects of the Transformed Cell, and serves on the LCCC Biospecimen Use and Protocol Review and Monitoring System (PRMS) Scientific Committees.

Dr. Riggins was awarded the 2014 John Eisenberg Career Development Award by Georgetown Women in Medicine, and selected to attend the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Early Career Women Faculty Professional Development Seminar. Dr. Riggins is a multi-year finalist for the Georgetown University Gerald R. Mara Faculty Mentoring Award, and in 2014 she received the Tumor Biology Training Program Excellence in Teaching Award.

Learn more about Dr. Riggins’ research here:

Stacey D. Finley, PhD

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The featured outstanding New PI for May 2017 is Stacey D. Finley, PhD!

Stacey D. Finley is the Gordon S. Marshall Early Career Chair and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, where she directs the Computational Systems Biology Laboratory. Her research group develops mechanistic models of biological processes and applies the models to investigate tumor angiogenesis, tumor metabolism, and cancer immunotherapy. The goal of her modeling work is to gain insight into the dynamics and regulation of the biochemical pathways and enable the development of novel cancer therapeutics. To accomplish this work, Dr. Finley’s research group combines mathematical modeling with quantitative experimental studies performed in their laboratory. They have also established collaborations with experimental and clinical researchers.

Dr. Finley received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Florida A & M University and obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University. Her
 graduate research used computational tools to predict and estimate the feasibility of novel biodegradation pathways. Dr. Finley completed postdoctoral training in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where her research focused on computational modeling of VEGF signaling pathways in tumor angiogenesis. She was awarded postdoctoral fellowships from the NIH National Research Service Award and the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative. In 2013, Dr. Finley joined the faculty at USC in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. Finley was named a 2015 Emerging Scholar and a 2016 Keystone Symposia Fellow. Also in 2016, Dr. Finley was awarded an NSF Faculty Early CAREER Award and was selected as a Young Innovator by the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering journal. She was invited to attend the National Academy of Engineering’s 2016 Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. In 2017, Dr. Finley was named the inaugural recipient of the Leah Edelstein-Keshet Prize from the Society of Mathematical Biology. Most recently, Dr. Finley was awarded the Junior Research Award from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Hanna Reisler Mentorship Award from the Women in Science and Engineering Program at USC. Dr. Finley has a joint appointment in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and is an associate member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.