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Velia M. Fowler, Professor and Chair of Biological
Sciences, is pleased to be the Associate Director of the Delaware Center for Musculoskeletal Research (DCMR) — an NIH-designated
Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) established in February
2021. Her research background in multi-scale
investigations of cell and tissue structure and function aligns well with the scientific
goals and approaches of the DCMR. Fowler will assist in the management and
scientific direction of the DCMR, serving on the Executive Committee with Dawn
Elliott (PI), Millie Sullivan and Liyun Wang (Research Core leaders) from the
College of Engineering. Fowler will also help organize the scientific mentoring
efforts, via bi-monthly DCMR Science Meetings of faculty and their lab teams, facilitate
informal “Walk and Talk” peer-mentoring conversations, and “On-Site Proposal Feedback”
of grant writing during proposal development. Faculty in the DCMR will also participate in
the Junior Investigative Network of the DE-CTR and DE-INBRE, and the UD-supported NIH Proposal Academy, for which Fowler is
a faculty co-Advisor. Project leaders
will be provided funds to visit one senior researcher outside of UD each year
to improve their research breadth and collaborative interactions, and DCMR
faculty will participate in mentoring programs of UD ADVANCE and the National
Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). The combination of an
engineer (Elliott) and a biologist (Fowler) as leaders of the Center will
enable a strong interdisciplinary approach to the administration and scientific
direction of the DCMR.
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Figure 1. Multi-scale Imaging of skeletal muscle
structure. (A) Whole isolated extensor digitorum longus skeletal muscle
with tendon (R.A. Lieber). (B) Confocal fluorescence image at 20X of tibialis
anterior (TA) skeletal muscle fibers showing myofibrils (orange) and nuclei
(blue) (Fowler). (C) Confocal fluorescence image at 100X of isolated myofibril
showing thin filament proteins (tropomodulin, red), actin (green), and a-actinin
(blue) (Fowler & Littlefield). (D) Electron micrograph of thin (actin) and
thick (myosin) myofilaments in TA skeletal muscle (Fowler and Wood).
Fowler began her faculty career in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in 1984 and moved to the Scripps Research Institute in 1987, where she was promoted to Professor in 2000. She relocated to UD in January 2019 to become Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. Fowler's research focuses on actin cytoskeleton regulation of cellular architecture and biomechanics in tissue and organ function in development, physiology, and pathology. Fowler's Bibliography. In skeletal and cardiac muscle, she has taken a multi-scale approach to study muscle structure and function, using molecular genetics and imaging approaches from the nano- to centimeter scale to understand muscle structure and physiology (Figure 1). Her research showed that thin filament lengths in sarcomeres are regulated by actin dynamics at pointed but not barbed ends, and that precise regulation of thin filament length by proteins called tropomodulins (Tmods) controls length-tension relationships in muscle sarcomeres and determines the contractile force output of different skeletal muscles. Defects in thin filament length regulation by mutations in Tmod gene family members form the basis of several congenital cardiac, skeletal and smooth muscle myopathies. Fowler has published over 130 research papers, chapters, and reviews, has been cited over 8,000 times, and has an H-index of 57. She has mentored over 25 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Fowler was one of the founding members of the Scripps Graduate Program in 1989, served as Associate Dean from 2013-2019, and was nominated three times as Outstanding Mentor at Scripps.
Fowler has extensive experience with the NIH across multiple areas that will contribute to her leadership of the DCMR COBRE. She received her first NIH grant as PI in 1983 and has been continuously funded by NIH R01 grants as PI for 35 years. In addition to her long track record in investigator-initiated NIH research, Fowler has had extensive leadership experience in numerous NIH programs and review processes: