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Gia K. Voeltz

Gia Voeltz is a Howard Hughes Investigator and a Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Gia studied Biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was initially trained as a yeast RNA biologist in the lab of Manny Ares. Gia received her PhD from Yale University under the supervision of Dr. Joan Steitz, where she studied the regulation of mRNA deadenylation and decay during Xenopus early development. Gia was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Tom Rapoport at Harvard Medical School where she first began to study the mechanisms that generate the structure of cytoplasmic organelles. During her postdoc, she published a hallmark paper that identified the first class of integral membrane proteins (the Reticulons and Dp1/Yop1) that regulate the structure of the tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) both in vitro and in vivo, in yeast and mammalian cells. She started her lab at the CU Boulder in 2006. Her own lab is interested in understanding how integral membrane shaping proteins and the cytoskeleton regulate the structure and dynamics of the ER and how ER structure is elaborated in the axon and dendrites of neuronal cells during development. These studies have fueled an interest in understanding how human genetic mutations in membrane shaping proteins contribute to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia and Juvenile ALS.


Another major focus of Gia’s lab is to unravel mechanistically how ER contact sites regulate the structure and dynamics of other organelles. Several years ago, her lab discovered that ER tubules maintain stable contact sites with almost all other organelles as they move on teh cytoskeleton. This observation was followed by a sequence of surprising discoveries that ER contact sites define the position where mitochondria, endosomes and RNP granules undergo constriction and division. On mitochondria, they have further discovered that both fusión and fission machinery co-localize to the same ER contact sites to regulate mitocondrial dynamics. Gia’s current research goals are to understand how ER contact sites are regulated and positioned and to discover by what mechanism(s) ER contact sites drive the division (and fusion) of diverse organelles. These studies are aimed at unraveling the factors, functions, and mechanisms of ER-mediated organelle division. Furthermore, we anticipate that our studies will be of general importance and could forge a link between basic biology and disease. For example, many RNA viruses enter the cell thru the endocytic pathway, but are later encapsulated by ER membranes upon which they form replication centers. We have also developed a project to study how ER shaping proteins contribute to viral replication center formation and are probing whether ER contact sites serve as conduits for RNA virus trafficking through endocytic and secretory organelles.


2023 Elected a Member of the National Academy of Sciences;

2023 Elected a Fellow of the American Society of Cell Biology;

2022 Elected Chair of MCD Biology Graduate Program, CU Boulder (3 year term);

2020 Editorial Board Member, Cell;

2019 IBiology Video Part I & 2;

2018 Appointed an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute;

2016 Recipient of an HHMI Faculty Scholar Award;

2015 Featured in article: “Meet 10 scientists who are making their mark” by Megan Rosen (2015) Science News, 188: p.20:

2015 Featured in article: “Gia Voeltz: Cellular Cartographer” by Karen Zusi (2015) The Scientist, December 2015;

2015 American Society for Cell Biology Porter Lecture Fellowship Award;

2014 Member, NIH Membrane Biology and Protein Processing Study Section (until 2020);

2014 Associate Editor, Molecular Biology of the Cell;

2014 Elected Chair of MCD Biology Graduate Program, CU Boulder (3 year term);

2013 American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award;

2012 PhD student Jonathan Friedman wins a Weintraub Award;

2012 American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Early Career Life Scientist Award;

2012 Provost’s Faculty Achievement Award, CU Boulder;

2009 Interviewed for article: “Cell Biology: Ahead of the Curve” by K. Powell (2009) Nature, 460: p318-320;

2009 Interviewed for article: “Gia Voeltz: Shaping ideas about ER shape” by K. Sedwick (2008) Journal of Cell Biology, 180: p4-5;

2007 Searle Scholar Early Career Award;

2001 Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellowship Award;

1996 NIH Pre-doctoral Training Grant;

1994 Graduated with High Honors. University of California at Santa Cruz.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Sofia Zaganelli

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Ph.D. University of Geneva

       Ph.D. Advisor: Dr. Jean-Claude           Martinou​

B.S. Vita-Salute San Raffaele University

Kari Ecklund


Ph.D. Colorado State University

Ph.D. Advisor: Dr. Steven Markus

B.S. Colorado State University

Tania Rizo


Dr. rer. nat. FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg 

Advisor: Prof. Beate Winner

M.S. RWTH Aachen University

B.S. University of Cologne

Melody Subra


Ph.D. Universite Nice Cote d'azur

Ph.D. Advisor: Dr. Bruno Antonny & Dr. Bruno Mesmin

B.S. University Paris Sciences et Lettres

Graduate Students

Sylas Anderson


B.A. University of San Diego

Rachel Gessner

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B.A. St. Olaf College

Lab Staff

Janet Fox

Electron Microscopy Specialist


B.A. University of Colorado Boulder

Undergraduate Researchers

Molly Ricker



  • Eric Sawyer - Former Postdoc - Scientist at Vortex Biotechnology.

  • Alex Thompson - Former Postdoc - Variant Curation Scientist at GeneDx.

  • Jonathan Striepen - Former PhD Student/Postdoc - Scientist at Johnson&Johnson.

  • Daniel Petito - Former Lab Manager - PhD Student at Princeton University.

  • Tricia Nguyen - Former PhD Student - Scientist at Viridian Therapeutics.

  • Emiliano Zamponi - Former Postdoc - Postdoc at Rockefeller University.

  • Lauren Vanhousen - Former Lab Manager.

  • ​Raquel Salvador Gallego - Former Postdoc - Scientist at Impossible Foods Inc. California.

  • Haoxi Wu - Former PhD Student - Postdoc at University of Cambridge with Ramanujan Hegde.

  • Valerie Olson - Former Undergrad - PhD Candidate at CU Anschutz.

  • Jason Lee - Former Postdoc - Assistant Professor at Department of MCB at the Baylor College of Medicine.

  • Robert Abrisch - Former PhD Student - HHMI postdoctoral fellow at UCSD with Samara Reck-Peterson.

  • Peter Cathey - Former Technician - PhD candidate at University of California, Berkeley with Roberto Zoncu.

  • Samantha Gumbin - Former Technician - PhD candidate at Stanford University with Ron Kopito.

  • Melissa Hoyer - Former PhD Student - Jane Coffin Childs Fellow at Harvard Medical School with Wade Harper.

  • Laura Westrate - Former Postdoc - Assistant Professor at Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Calvin College.

  • Karli Heuer - Former Undergrad - Master's in Public Health at Columbia Public Health.

  • Patrick Chitwood - Former Technician - Software Deployment Strategist at Palentir.

  • Katelyn Cook - Former Undergrad - Postdoc at Max Planck Institute: Dresden with Nadler Von Appen Labs.

  • Zack Opheim - Former Undergrad - PhD candidate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • Ashley Rowland - Former PhD Student - Biology Education Research Associate at CU Boulder with Lisa Corwin.

  • Jonathan Martin - Former Postdoc - Scientist at Gevo Inc., Colorado.

  • Nesia Zurek - Former PhD student - Scientist at IntelliCyt Corp. New Mexico.

  • Amber English - Former PhD student - Postdoc at CU Boulder with Roy Parker.

  • Jonathan Friedman - Former PhD student - Assistant Professor at Department of Cell Biology, UT Southwestern.

  • Lenore Sparks - Former Technician - Recieved PhD at EMBL-Heidelberg with Martin Beck.

  • Roni Dengler - Former Undergrad - PhD candidate at CU Boulder with Joaquin Espinosa and Leslie Leinwand.

  • Jared DiBenedetto - Former Undergrad - Medical Student at Albany Medical College.

  • Brant Webster - Former Undergrad - LSRF Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley with Andy Dillin.

  • Jesse Clark - Former Undergrad -  PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz with Doug Kellogg.


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