Navigation Links
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Researcher Receives $1.1 million NSF CAREER Award
Date:1/11/2017

As a graduate student, Scarlet Shell spent four months in rural and urban clinics in Peru studying the pathogens that cause malaria and tuberculosis. Seeing firsthand the ravages those diseases visit on vulnerable populations set her on a career path of discovery.

Now, as an assistant professor of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Shell has received a $1.1 million CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a five-year program to study the molecular mechanisms bacteria use to survive stressful conditions of starvation and lack of oxygen. The CAREER program is the NSF’s most competitive and prestigious award for young faculty members “who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.”

“I’ve always been interested in the science of infectious diseases and the molecular mechanisms of infection, but seeing people with limited access to healthcare suffering from these diseases made clear for me the link between basic research and clinical medicine,” Shell said. “To help people, we need to know more about the molecular biology of bacteria. So I am honored to receive this award from the NSF to further our research and to enrich the educational experience of our students who will have a real role in elements of this program.”

Many species of bacteria are adept at surviving hostile conditions, such as environmental stresses, attacks from a host’s immune system, or antibiotic drugs. When stressed, the bacteria cells stop growing, presumably to conserve energy and bolster their defenses. Those changes are accomplished by modified instructions sent by the bacteria’s genes in the form of molecules of messenger RNA (mRNA). Very little is known about how those mRNAs are affected under stress.

Working with the model organism Mycobacterium smegmatis, a relative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis that does not cause disease in people, Shell will probe the differing patterns of mRNAs that flow from the bacteria’s 6,000 genes while the cells are starved for nutrients or cultured in low oxygen. Her team will dig deep, looking at how the building blocks of mRNA molecules change under stress in comparison to those in “healthy” cells that are growing. The work will also analyze which areas along the bacteria’s genome become more or less active while under stress.

Extracting and analyzing every mRNA molecule from a smegmatis cell is a major technical challenge. In earlier work as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, Shell developed a novel approach to do so, an intense process that involves up to one billion mRNA molecules in every experiment. Shell predicts that the fundamental biological mechanisms that allow bacteria to survive stress are similar across many species—whether human pathogens or environmental bacteria that dwell in soil or water—so her studies could have broad impact across many fields.

A better understanding of the molecular biology of tuberculosis bacteria, for example, could open new lines of research for advanced treatments of what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a major global health threat. In its most recent report on the disease, the WHO estimated 10.4 million new cases of tuberculosis occurred in 2015 with 1.4 million fatalities worldwide. Six countries account for 60 percent of the new cases of tuberculosis, the WHO reports: India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa. Of great concern globally are the 480,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant strains of tuberculosis seen in 2015. “Much of what we learn in smegmatis will be applicable to tuberculosis,” Shell said. “Our focus is on the basic science, to fill a knowledge gap and create a foundation for future advances in the field.”

A core element of the NSF CAREER program is to enrich educational experiences for university and secondary school students to inspire them to consider careers in science. Through the new grant, Shell will adapt several courses she teaches at WPI and put students to work on aspects of the bacterial mRNA analysis. Shell has also developed a summer research experience for several Worcester area high school students who will write code to predict the functions of proteins in the bacteria.

“This CAREER Award is a major milestone and important recognition of the outstanding work Professor Shell is doing,” said Joseph Duffy, PhD, head of WPI’s Biology and Biotechnology Department. “We look forward to the discoveries that will flow from her inquiry and to the positive impact of authentic research experiences for our students.”

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI is one of the nation’s first engineering and technology universities. Its 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. WPI’s talented faculty work with students on interdisciplinary research that seeks solutions to important and socially relevant problems in fields as diverse as the life sciences and bioengineering, energy, information security, materials processing, and robotics. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference to communities and organizations around the world through the university’s innovative Global Projects Program. There are more than 45 WPI project centers throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

Contact:
Michael Cohen
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Massachusetts
508-868-4778, mcohen(at)wpi(dot)edu

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/01/prweb13974731.htm.


'/>"/>
Source: PRWeb
Copyright©2017 Vocus, Inc.
All rights reserved


Related biology technology :

1. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Researchers Build “Liquid Biopsy” Chip that Detects Metastatic Cancer Cells in a Drop of Blood
2. Two Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professors Are Elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
3. Making Red Mud Greener Through New Innovative Research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
4. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Team Awarded Patent for Reprogramming Skin Cells
5. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor Suzanne Scarlata Elected President of the Biophysical Society
6. Tracking Worm Sex Drive at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Launches Advanced Industrial Biomanufacturing Symposium
8. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor Receives the KEEN 2015 Outstanding Faculty Award
9. Petri-Dishing the Dirt for Science and Education at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
10. Worcester Polytechnic Institute Researchers Study Copper to Help Cells Fight Back Against Bacterial Invaders
11. The Ties That Bind: NSF Funds Research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute Aimed at Cracking the Hidden Genetic Code Across Species
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/14/2017)... 13, 2017  The Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines ... FDA final guidance on biologic naming: ... in emphasizing the importance of distinct naming for all ... the benefits biosimilars will bring to patients, including new ... the portion of the Guidance dealing with suffix design ...
(Date:1/13/2017)... ... 13, 2017 , ... Two Kalamazoo entrepreneurs have launched AgTonik ... that farms, greenhouses and hydroponics operations use to increase yields and promote plant ... segments of customers using this high grade fulvic acid extracted from a mineral ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... ... January 12, 2017 , ... ... IS A SUCCESS , VTI, Vertebral Technologies, Inc., announces the successful outcome ... expandable device. Since September 2016, VTI (Vertebral Technologies, Inc.) has partnered with ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Huffman Engineering, Inc. , a leader in control systems ... company’s Lincoln office as a chemical engineer. In his new role, Beck will ... the life science manufacturing and water/wastewater industries. , Prior to joining Huffman Engineering, Beck ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:1/6/2017)... , Jan. 6, 2017  Privately-held CalciMedica, Inc., ... in healthy volunteers of a novel calcium release-activated ... acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis, sudden ... mild disorder, but can be very serious.  In severe ... sepsis, where extended hospital stays, time in the ...
(Date:1/4/2017)... 2017  CES 2017 – Valencell , the ... announced the launch of two new versions of ... biometric sensor modules that incorporate the best of ... expertise. The two new designs include Benchmark BE2.0, ... and Benchmark BW2.0, a 2-LED version of its ...
(Date:12/20/2016)... LONDON , Dec. 20, 2016 ... car sharing, rental and leasing is stoking significant ... of radio frequency technology, Bluetooth low energy (BLE), ... emerge as the next wave of wireless technologies ... vehicle access system to advanced access systems opens ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):