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Velia Fowler – Biography


Velia Fowler, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology

The Scripps Research Institute




Velia M. Fowler graduated from Oberlin College in 1974, where her interest in cellular structure and light microscopy was sparked by classes in unicellular green algae and invertebrate zoology, field trips to marine stations, and a summer course in Experimental Invertebrate Biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.  In graduate school at Harvard University she worked with Daniel Branton and D. Lansing Taylor on the red blood cell membrane skeleton, showing that spectrin cross-linked actin filaments into an isotropic network on the cytoplasmic surface of the membrane.  She obtained her Ph.D. in 1980, and as a postdoctoral fellow with Vann Bennett at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she discovered and purified tropomyosin and myosin from red blood cells.  In 1984, she obtained a faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. There, she discovered tropomodulin, a tropomyosin-binding protein in red blood cells that her lab would later show to be the founding member of a family of actin filament pointed end-capping proteins present in all cells.  Velia moved to The Scripps Research Institute in 1987, where she has continued to study actin filament dynamics and regulation by tropomodulins and tropomyosins.  Tropomodulins are the only proteins to regulate actin filament dynamics at pointed (slow growing) ends and are critical for assembly and architecture of both stable and dynamic cytoskeletons of terminally differentiated cells, and during cellular morphogenesis in development.  She has two children (Neva and Lewis), as well as a small house with a large vegetable garden.  She also enjoys cooking, hiking, swimming, art and theater.