Rebecca Heald receives Sandra K. Masur Senior Leadership Award

Rebecca Heald, Professor, and Co-chair in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been awarded the 2022 Sandra K. Masur Senior Leadership Award from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). ASCB presents this recognition to any scientist at a later career stage (generally full professor or equivalent) whose outstanding scientific achievements coupled with a record of active leadership in mentoring women and individuals from underrepresented groups in their scientific careers.

Rebecca Heald

The Heald lab uses frogs (Xenopus) to address fundamental questions surrounding mechanisms of cell division and biological size control. With Clotilde Cadart, Heald wrote the Perspective “Scaling of biosynthesis and metabolism with cell size” published in ASCB’s basic science research journal Molecular Biology of the Cell.

“We use cytoplasmic extracts prepared from frog eggs and embryos to study how the mitotic spindle assembles and how subcellular structures scale to cell size across species and during the cleavage divisions of early development,” Heald explained. “We use inter-species comparisons and crosses to investigate physiological effects of genome size and mechanisms underlying hybrid inviability.”  

Heald will present the talk “Molecular conflicts disrupting centromere maintenance contribute to Xenopus hybrid inviability” during the Centromere Structure and Function Special Interest Subgroup at Cell Bio 2022.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this award,” remarked Heald. “For my entire career, ASCB has always been my home as a scientific organization. The annual meeting is where I get to meet my favorite scientists and people and reunite with my former lab members. The Society represents the best efforts of our community to support one another and share our enthusiasm for the power and beauty of cell biology research.”

Heald is known for postdoctoral mentoring and promoting diversity and inclusion in the life sciences and was awarded the Leon K. Henkin Citation for Distinguished Service at UC Berkeley in 2019.

“Aside from research, my overarching professional goal is to provide a productive and nurturing environment for my group members, to help guide them to the next phase of their careers, and to continue supporting them so that they reach their full potential wherever their paths take them,” Heald said. “In the cell biology community, I have served as a member of the ASCB Council and on the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) committee. One of my main efforts was to re-vamp an easily searchable WICB Speaker Referral List. I am fortunate that leadership roles in my department, campus and scientific community have enabled me to engage in mentoring efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion more broadly.”

Born in Bellefonte, PA, Heald grew up in Greenville, PA. She graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 1985 and a PhD from Harvard Medical School in Physiology and Biophysics in 1993. She was a postdoctoral fellow with Eric Karsenti at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, before joining the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1997.

Heald won the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2006 and was elected as an ASCB Fellow in 2017. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Heald gave the 2021 ASCB Keith Porter Lecture and was also a recipient of the WICB Junior Award in 2005.

In addition to her academic pursuits, she enjoys cycling, reading, gardening, and hiking and camping with her husband Steve and dogs Louis and Beadle.

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Strategic Communications Manager.