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Biologist Zakas Receives NSF CAREER Award

Christina Zakas

Christina Zakas, an assistant professor of biological sciences, has received a Faculty Early Career Development Award, also known as the NSF CAREER award, from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award is one of the highest honors the NSF gives to young faculty in the sciences. 

Zakas’ five-year, $1 million grant will fund a research project to investigate the genomic differences that shape development evolution, with the goal of unearthing the relationship between evolutionary divergence and development. She will use closely related marine annelid species — which exhibit a wide variety of development modes — as models.

Development is a fundamental process of biology, yet many animals have evolved different developmental processes, even amongst closely related species. Zakas’ research project will inform our understanding of how speciation and developmental differentiation begin at the molecular level. Finding the genetic basis of developmental change is a critical component of understanding diversification and evolution. 

The research project will be accompanied by an education program designed to expand the retention of undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, particularly those from underrepresented groups. Program participants will gain access to early research and mentoring opportunities.

Zakas’ research focuses on evolutionary and developmental genetics, using marine invertebrates as models to understand the genetic basis of life-history evolution.

Zakas received her bachelor’s in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her doctorate in genetics from the University of Georgia in 2011. She joined NC State in 2019.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.