Carla Finkielstein, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, has been named the Luther and Alice Hamlett Junior Faculty Fellow by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Luther and Alice Hamlett Junior Faculty Fellowships were established in the College of Science through a bequest from the estate of the late Luther J. and Alice Hamlett.  Luther Hamlett earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech in 1945.  Based on Hamlett's dedication to faculty research and collaboration, the Fellowships in the College of Science were established posthumously to provide support for outstanding faculty members who hold the rank of  assistant or associate professors and whose efforts support the missions of the college’s Academy of Integrated Science (AIS).

A recipient of the Luther and Alice Hamlett Junior Faculty Fellowship will hold the title for a period of three years. The award is renewable.

A faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences since 2005, Finkielstein is also the associate division leader of the AIS’s nanoscience division. She is affiliated with the Faculty of Health Science and was a founding member of the Virginia Tech Cancer Research Alliance. She was recently appointed director of the new Virginia Tech Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

Her research is frequently covered by local and national news outlets. Earlier this year with Harald Sontheimer, a professor at the research institute and the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience, Finkielstein created a new testing laboratory in Roanoke to process patient samples from regional health districts to test for the presence of COVID-19, meeting FDA and state health standards. From April until August, the lab tested 25,000 nasopharyngeal swab samples. The lab is also testing all COVID-19 tests of Virginia Tech students and employees.

Virginia Tech alumnus Scott "Ponch" Frank and his young son meet Carla Finkielstein in her lab during a 2018 visit as part of the Mitzi L. Frank Memorial Endowed Fund.

 Scott "Ponch" Frank and his young son talk with Carla Finkielstein in her lab
Virginia Tech alumnus Scott "Ponch" Frank and his young son meet Carla Finkielstein in her lab at Steger Hall during a 2018 visit as part of the Mitzi L. Frank Endowed Scholarship

Finkielstein has been instrumental in establishing the new major in nanomedicine degree program, also part of the AIS.

“Development of a nanomedicine major was largely due to the growing interest of the students and demands from the public, federal, and private sectors. The Academy of Integrated Sciences recognized, and supported, the need for creating a unique major that provides future health professionals and researchers with a very distinct training,” Finkielstein said.

She teaches advanced nanomedicine and clinical biology, all of which are central to the nanoscience program. “The goal of the nanomedicine major is for our students to learn how to integrate their knowledge and seek innovative solutions to problems for which traditional treatment modalities are no longer effective or are simply absent,” she added.

She is committed to mentoring undergraduate and graduate research, having hosted 12 graduate students and more than 120 undergraduate students in her research lab in her years at Virginia Tech.

Finkielstein has written approximately 50 publications in leading research journals, 10 book chapters, and more than 70 invited or keynote presentations at professional conferences and leading research institutions worldwide. Finkielstein is a member of several professional associations including the American Association for Cancer Research, is a reviewer and editorial board member for many scientific journals within her field of specialization, is a panelist for, among others, the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health  (NIH), and the American Heart Association (AHA), and is an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness.

Her research is consistently supported by funding agencies. From 2009 until 2014, Finkielstein was the recipient of a prestigious NSF CAREER Award. She has received additional funding from the NSF, the NIH’s National Cancer Institute and from the AHA.

Inspired by Finkielstein’s work, the Mitzi L. Frank Memorial Scholarship was established to support students working in her lab.  The scholarship was endowed with funds coming from donations by friends and family of the Franks, at the request of Virginia Tech alumnus Ponch Frank, to honor his late wife, who was also an alumna of Virginia Tech. 

Finkielstein received her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Buenos Aires.

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