Virginia Bioinformatics Institute researcher receives NSF CAREER award


Goal to develop unique micro-analytical systems, detection strategies

Blacksburg, Va. Iuliana Lazar, a research assistant professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a five-year, $400,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) for research on the development of microfluidic devices with mass spectrometric detection for proteomic applications.

This research will lead to the development of unique micro-analytical systems and detection strategies that can be used in the areas of biomedical research, medicine, agriculture, biodefense, and other areas that benefit from proteomic investigations.

CAREER grants are the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of early career development activities of junior faculty members who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.

Providing a comprehensive description for all protein components in a cell present during the various stages of the cell lifecycle is a major challenge. There are efforts across a variety of disciplines to develop adequate instrumentation and technologies for this purpose. The primary goal of Lazar's CAREER project is to address the basic technological limitations that impede fast proteomic investigations.

"Microfabrication is emerging as one of the most significant trends in analytical chemistry instrumentation," Lazar said. "Microfluidic devices present unique opportunities for integration and multiplexing capabilities to handle small sample amounts and represent an optimal platform for proteomic applications."

The long-term objective of Lazar's project is the development of microfluidic platforms with mass spectrometric detection for bioanalytical applications. Specifically, three major areas of research will be examined: microfluidic platform development, microchip-mass spectrometric interface development, and bioanalytical process implementation on the chip.

"It is hoped that the successful completion of this project will result in new and superior analytical capabilities for microfabricated structures that will enable the generation of high quality structural information on much shorter time scales than traditional methodologies," Lazar said. "The flexible and disposable format of the microchip platform will provide an optimum instrumentation for automated high-throughput mass spectrometric analysis of very small sample amounts."

Lazar received her Ph.D. in chemistry at Brigham Young University in 1997. Before joining VBI in 2003, she spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and three years as a principal research scientist at the Barnett Institute/Northeastern University. She has received several awards for her research, including the Loren C. and Maurine F. Bryner Fellowship, H. Tracy Hall Award, and the John N. Hatsopoulos Scholar Award. Lazar has published more than 20 research papers, presented at more than 50 national and international symposia, and organized several conference sessions on the topic of microfluidics with mass spectrometric detection.

The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions. With almost $49 million in extramural research funding awarded to date, VBI researchers are working on many human, crop, and animal diseases. Learn more at

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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