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Elizabeth Gilbert

Professor, Molecular Nutrition
Professional photo of Dr. Elizabeth Gilbert.
School of Animal Sciences
3200 Litton-Reaves Hall
175 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

From an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology to a postdoctoral research position in the area of comparative genomics, I have always had a strong interest in the evolutionary basis of complex traits and adaptations that confer unique physiological attributes to different species. My Master’s and Ph.D. research focused on the regulation of gene expression of intestinal nutrient transporters in black bears and birds and through this research I cultivated my passion for nutritional science and molecular biology, in particular the understanding of how nutrients regulate gene expression and cellular functions. I completed a postdoctoral appointment in the area of pancreatic beta cell regeneration where I identified plant-based compounds with effects on beta cell proliferation and viability in culture and confirmed their anti-diabetic effects in a mouse model. I also conducted postdoctoral research in the area of nutritional proteomics; using a mass spectrometric-based approach to identify proteins involved in the development of the small intestine in birds from lines that had undergone selection for growth under different nutritional environments. My final postdoctoral project, in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Medical Biology at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, involved characterizing the function of a transcription factor that was identified as a repressor of insulin-like growth factor 2, ZBED6, using a variety of functional genomics-based approaches in different cell types. I assumed a tenure-track faculty position at Virginia Tech in 2012 and have since established a research program that focuses on understanding the molecular basis for eating disorders, insulin resistance, and obesity, using chicks as the primary research model.

  • 2010 - 2011, Postdoc - Uppsala University, Dept. of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Sweden
  • 2008 - 2010, Postdoc - Virginia Tech, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and APSC
  • 2008 Ph.D., Molecular Nutrition – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
  • 2005 M.S., Molecular Nutrition – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
  • 2003 B.S., Wildlife Biology – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

2013 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award

  • ALS 3204 Animal Nutrition and Feeding
  • APSC 4004 Issues in Animal Science Recitation Section – Obesity in Birds and Mammals
  • APSC 2984 APSC Research

My research is focused on the molecular and cellular signaling mechanisms associated with energy metabolism in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue across different species. This research is aimed at improving animal production traits and meat quality, and at developing strategies to reduce the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. I am interested in epigenetic modifications and interactions of genetic background, diet and development on regulation of selective lipid deposition, insulin resistance and adipocyte turnover. Specific endeavors include 1) Elucidating mechanisms underlying differences in food intake and adiposity in chickens selected for high or low body weight and 2) investigating the use of flavonoids as anti-obesity/diabetic compounds through improving insulin resistance in adipose tissue and skeletal muscles.


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Building a Better Chicken

White chickens standing on green grass.
An assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences, Gilbert is helping Virginia poultry producers maximize chicken production to get the most meat they can from their birds. Poultry was a top agricultural export for the commonwealth in 2013, exceeding $186 million.