Title: Fun experiments you can only do with frogs
Rebecca Heald is Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
She received her PhD from Harvard Medical School, where she studied the dynamics of the nuclear lamina and the cell cycle with Frank McKeon. She began working with Xenopus egg extracts during her postdoctoral research with Eric Karsenti at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg.
Heald started her own laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley in 1997. Her lab’s ongoing research explores two fundamental areas of biology: cell division and size control. In 2006, Heald won an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award to pursue this question of intracellular scaling. Her approach takes advantage of in vitro systems, using egg cytoplasmic extracts from the frog Xenopus laevis and the related, smaller frog Xenopus tropicalis to study the behaviour and size scaling of the mitotic spindle. Heald has shown that the volume of the cytoplasm in which a spindle forms is a key factor in regulating the size of the spindle. She also identified a biochemical modification of the nuclear transport receptor importin α as a sensor that scales intracellular structures to cell size.
In May 2019, Heald was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She is also on the editorial board for the Journal of Cell Biology and Developmental Cell.