Faculty Members awarded prestigious NIH MIRA, looking to expand their labs.

Faculty Members Drs. Caiti Heil, Rafael Guerrero, and Christina Zakas awarded prestigious NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award, looking to expand their labs.

Three faculty members have been recently awarded the prestigious Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Drs. Caiti Heil, Rafael Guerrero, and Christina Zakas have been awarded the MIRA to pursue innovative and flexible research directions in their respective labs. The MIRA award is geared specifically to give researchers funding stability while offering investigators the flexibility to “follow important new research directions as opportunities arise” and minimize “time spent writing, reviewing and managing multiple research grants and thus provide more time for research and mentoring junior scientists.” (MIRA FAQs). This will be a powerful funding addition to the dynamic research of Drs. Heil, Guerrero, and Zakas’ work on evolutionary genetics, while giving them the flexibility to pursue promising directions in the future.

With the addition of the MIRA to their labs, Drs. Heil, Guerrero, and Zakas are looking for promising and excited graduate students to join them in their research. Dr. Heil’s lab pursues diverse and collaborative projects studying ecology and evolution using budding yeasts as a system such as the domestication of yeast for use in baking and interspecific hybridization. Dr. Guerrero is interested in understanding how genetic variants contribute to divergence between groups of individuals, such as thinking about how some genomic regions contribute to the buildup of genetic and phenotypic differences. Using a marine model to understand the genetic mechanisms involved in development and how they can evolve is core to the work of Dr. Zakas’ lab. She has ongoing research projects such as examining mate-choice evolution using quantitative genetics by finding the genetic basis of mate-preferences in our system. These research directions and the MIRA promise to give young graduate students the opportunity to become dynamic scientists!