Stephanie Robel received an ICTAS Junior Faculty Award for FY2018 in the amount of $40,000. ICTAS Research Opportunities supports interdisciplinary research is by periodically awarding seed funding through a competitive RFP process for a variety of proposal types, including annual Junior Faculty Awards for pre-tenure Virginia Tech faculty and targeted proposals to advance research in specific areas.
Robel's research interest is in dissecting reactive astrocyte heterogeneity after brain injury. Astrocytes are glial cells in the brain that form a close anatomical and functional relationship with neurons and are indispensable for normal neuronal activity. They also sense and react to brain insult with a process called astrogliosis. Whether astrogliosis is adaptive or maladaptive is under active debate in the neuroscience community. A major challenge in characterizing reactive astrocyte (dys)function is the under-appreciated heterogeneity of reactive astrocytes. The Robel and Xie laboratories teamed up to molecularly characterize and identify unique markers for distinct reactive astrocyte subtypes. They will then assess if specific subtypes affect neuronal function distinctly. This will enable the field to determine the context in which astrogliosis is adaptive vs. maladaptive at higher resolution than so far possible.