Newswise — Erika L.F. Holzbaur, William Maul Measey Professor of Physiology at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, was chosen by the Women in Cell Biology Committee (WICB) of the American Society for Cell Biology as the recipient of the 2020 Sandra K. Masur Senior Leadership Award for her mentorship, teaching, leadership, and science.

In his letter of nomination, E. Michael Ostap, Director of the Pennsylvania Muscle Institute, said Holzbaur is overdue for this recognition. She has distinguished herself as a caring, supportive, and effective mentor for both grad students and postdocs, he noted, adding, “She is the most effective advisor/mentor I have interacted with in my 20 years at Penn. Although she mentors all her trainees with equal enthusiasm, she is unparalleled as a role model for women scientists.” “She is a dedicated and outstanding teacher who engages students by revealing the excitement of scientific discovery, and she’s also a world-class scientist who has contributed groundbreaking ideas and scientific discoveries,” Ostap wrote.

Holzbaur’s laboratory studies the dynamics of organelle motility along the cellular cytoskeleton, driven by microtubule- and actin-based motors, and also investigates the cellular mechanisms leading to neurodegeneration.

“For me, it was love at first sight when I first encountered molecular motors in graduate school, where I studied the ATPase pathway of axonemal dynein. As a postdoc, I began studying cytoplasmic dynein, and in my own lab, we work on dynein, kinesin, and myosin motors. These motors are essential in most cells in higher eukaryotes, but play particularly critical roles in neurons, where dynein and kinesin motors drive organelle transport over distances of up to a meter along the axons of neurons. Our work on axonal transport led us to an interest in neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and Parkinson’s disease, and this interest, in turn, led us to focus on autophagy and mitophagy, essential cellular pathways required to maintain neuronal homeostasis. The reason we have been able to tackle so many important questions is the outstanding students and postdocs who have trained in my lab, and their success is what makes me most proud,” said Holzbaur.

“It gives me enormous pride to be recognized by ASCB, but at the same time I am humbled to be included in the company of the outstanding women who have been recognized by WICB awards over the years at the junior, mid-career, and senior-level,” Holzbaur added.

Holzbaur will give a talk on the Dynamics of Autophagy and Mitophagy in Neurons during Cell Bio Virtual 2020.

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Cell Bio Virtual 2020