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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / June 

Associate Professor Michelle Theus receives Graduate School's outstanding mentor award

June 21, 2018

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Outstanding Faculty Mentor Michelle Theus

Photo of Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Outstanding Faculty Mentor Michelle Theus in a lab with students

Michelle Theus, associate professor of molecular and cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, assistant professor in the Faculty of Heath Sciences, and director of the Theus Laboratory, has received the Graduate School’s 2018 Faculty Outstanding Mentor Award for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Sponsored by the Graduate School, the annual award recognizes excellence in mentoring graduate students. Students nominate recipients, and one professor from each college receives an award.

Theus’ work focuses on stem cell therapy, especially the potential for “self-healing,” which uses the patient’s stem cells in the healing process. “The goal of my research is to understand how these innate stem cells contribute to adult central nervous system repair following traumatic injury, an area that has very limited regenerative potential,” she said.

The Theus lab is an interdisciplinary brain injury research team that focuses on discovering new therapies for stroke and traumatic brain injury victims. The lab works closely with Center for One Health and Regenerative Medicine, Integrated Health and Biomedical Science program, and the School of Neuroscience. Theus also is lead faculty member on the Regenerative Medicine team, an Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. She and her team have received several awards for their research and she has published numerous articles in top journals.

Those who nominated Theus said she possesses the ability to translate complex concepts in neuroscience to whatever language is most relevant to the student – regardless of whether that student is from a clinical background, basic science background, or possesses no background knowledge at all.” Alumnus Thomas Brickler called Theus “one of the finest, brightest, most passionate scientist I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” He went on to note she always finds time for her students, and leads by hands-on example, sharing her contagious love for science.

Current student Yeonwoo Lebovitz said, “Dr. Theus fosters a welcoming, learning environment where lab members feel like they are part of a tightly knit research family.” Lebovitz said the lab is never lacking for undergraduate and graduate students, or postdocs, who want to work with Theus and her team. Current student Amanda Hazy said Theus encourages her students to write grant proposals and to present their work at regional and national conferences, and she helps them prepare their posters and presentations. “She encourages her students’ professional development, and helps us grow personally through her example and interaction with us.”

Theus earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Ohio, her master’s degree from the University of Texas, and her Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina.

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