Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

W&L Biology Professor Receives VFIC Grant

Natalia Toporikova, assistant professor of biology at Washington and Lee, has received a $2,000 grant from the Mednick Fellowship Committee of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) for her project “Role of Time-of-Day Signals in Hormonal Surges of Female Rats.”

“Shift work has a significant effect on reproductive health,” said Toporikova of her research. “Women working both day and night shifts have a 33 percent higher risk of menstrual problems and 80 percent higher risk of fertility problems. In this study, we manipulate the light-dark schedule in female rats to understand how the light affects ovulation and pregnancy initiation.”

Toporikova uses methods of computational modeling to study a wide range of biological systems. Other recent projects include neural control of breathing and signal detection by electric fish. See this recent article about work she and a W&L class did on the effect of biological clocks and rhythms on college students.

“Among the Washington and Lee assistant professors conducting summer research in 2014, her project stood out for its relevance to priorities in contemporary science, including understanding infertility,” said Suzanne Keen, dean of the College “We are proud of Natalia’s contributions to her home department of biology as well as to offerings in mathematics. Her interdisciplinary teaching and research exemplifies Washington and Lee’s teacher-scholar model.”

Toporikova holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The Maurice L. Mednick Memorial was created in 1967 in honor of a young Norfolk industrialist who died from accidental causes. His family and business associates wished to perpetuate his name by establishing a memorial that would emphasize his and the donors’ strong interest in higher education.

The Mednick Memorial Fund is administered by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC). It exists to encourage the professional development of college teachers and improve their academic competence through fellowships for research and advanced study. A committee of VFIC business trustees and college presidents oversees the selection of research proposals for funding.

The VFIC advances the distinctive values and strengths of its 15 member colleges by securing financial support from the private sector, increasing visibility, facilitating innovative and collaborative initiatives between the colleges, and supporting initiatives that ensure that this personalized educational experience remains an affordable choice for tomorrow’s citizen-leaders.