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J. Victor Garcia has been awarded the E.E. Just Award from the American Society for Cell Biology. The award recognizes outstanding scientific achievement by a minority scientist and is presented by the Minority Affairs Committee of the ASCB.

Garcia is a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Center for AIDS Research and the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. Garcia came to UNC in 2009, bringing with him a multidisciplinary team of researchers from around the world.

At the center of the team’s research endeavors is a very special rodent.

The rodent has a fully functioning human immune system. The so-called BLT mouse (for bone marrow, liver and thymus) was pioneered by Garcia and his laboratory in 2006 and has been used to answer critical questions about human immunology, virus-induced cancers and HIV infection, transmission and prevention. Since his arrival at UNC, his model has played a key role in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS.

“Dr. Garcia’s accomplishments embody the real value of a diverse faculty,” says UNC Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Taffye Benson Clayton. “The range of experiences we have to draw on at Carolina is multidimensional and helps push education and innovation far beyond the classroom.”

Garcia is a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher and has mentored numerous students, scientists and physicians. “As much as receiving this award is a wonderful honor for me,” says Garcia, “I also consider it a charge to continue to mentor others who want to make a contribution to science and medicine.”

Garcia received his doctoral degree in chemistry from Georgetown University and postdoctoral training at the National Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before coming to UNC, Garcia was a research associate at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He is the author of more than 100 publications. His laboratory is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. In 2007 he ranked 11th among U.S. scientists with the largest number of grants from the National Institutes of Health.

As recipient of this award, Garcia will deliver the 20th Annual E. E. Just Lecture at the American Society for Cell Biology Meeting in New Orleans in December. The award is named for Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941), an African-American biologist and zoologist who made fundamental contributions to our understanding of fertilization and cell division.

Published November 1, 2013.