Kristi L. Frank started her postdoctoral work in Gary Dunny's lab at the University of Minnesota Medical School shortly after earning her Ph.D. in biomedical research-biochemistry and molecular biology from the Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Her postdoctoral research, on which she is co-advised by Dunny and Patrick Schlievert, examines how Enterococcus faecalis adapts to and persists in a host as a pathogen. Frank uses microarray analysis and a genetic screen (employing recombinase-based in vivo expression technology) to characterize how E. faecalis gene expression changes over time in an animal model of subdermal abscess formation. Frank has completed experiments aimed at understanding the relative benefit that the conjugative plasmid pCF10 confers to E. faecalis cells in biofilm formation and in virulence in animal models of subdermal abscess formation and endocarditis. In addition to her lab work, Frank serves as an ad hoc peer reviewer for several journals, coordinates a monthly interest group on biofilms, and is actively involved in the Steering Committee of the University's Postdoctoral Association. Frank will use the Career Development Grant for Postdoctoral Women award to attend the 3rd ASM Conference on Enterococci in Portland, Oreg.
After completing her Ph.D. at the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Erin A. Gontang began postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School, in Roberto Kolter's lab, where she focuses on the ecological roles of microbially derived natural products and how microorganisms use small molecules to mediate interspecies interactions. Specifically, she has examined how the model microorganism Bacillus subtilis responds to small molecules that induce biofilm formation. She has studied a novel signaling mechanism involving a histidine kinase of B. subtilis. The signal that activates the kinase appears to be a change in the intracellular potassium concentration, and in response to potassium leakage, the histidine kinase KinC initiates a signal cascade leading to biofilm formation. Gontang is working to identify the mechanism by which KinC detects potassium leakage. In addition, she is studying six actinomycete strains to determine whether the expression of previously silent metabolic pathways can be promoted. Gontang will use the grant to participate in the course offered by the John Innes/Rudjer Bosˇkovic´ Summer Schools in Applied Molecular Biology entitled "Microbial Metabolites: Signals to Drugs."
Clarissa J. Nobile joined Alexander D. Johnson's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, after completing her Ph.D. and an additional year of postdoctoral research at Columbia University, where her main research focus was on biofilms. While at Columbia, she made extensive progress in elucidating the genetic mechanisms of Candida albicans biofilm formation using a large-scale gene disruption strategy. The Bcr1-dependent adherence regulatory pathway that she discovered is pivotal to understanding C. albicans biofilm formation. Without the transcription factor Bcr1 (named for biofilm and cell wall regulator), C. albicans cells are unable to form biofilms. Nobile is continuing her biofilm studies in Johnson's lab by incorporating more mechanistic detail on the transcriptional regulation that occurs during biofilm formation. She has recently published a paper in PLoS Biology detailing her studies with David Andes, Aaron Mitchell, and Alexander Johnson on a new biofilm regulator, Zap1, which is required for matrix production during C. albicans biofilm formation. Nobile will use the grant to participate as a speaker in the "Environmental Sensing and Responses" symposium at the International Mycological Congress (IMC9)-the Biology of Fungi Conference taking place in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
The 2011 Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women program is currently accepting applications. Three grants ($1,200 each) are given annually to postdoctoral women of outstanding scientific accomplishment and po tential for additional significant research or study in the area of microbiology. For more information on the program and the application process, go to http://www.asm.org/index.php/what-s-new/womens-career-development-grants.html.