The ASM Membership Board is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2012 Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women: Magdia De Jesus of Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health (Nicholas J. Mantis' laboratory), Nikki Dellas of Montana State University (Mark Young's laboratory), and Katherine S. Ralston of the University of Virginia (William A. Petri's laboratory).
Magdia De Jesus began her postdoctoral training in the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health after completing her Ph.D. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. She is currently conducting research in Nicholas Mantis' mucosal immunology laboratory, where she explores the role of C-type lectin receptors on Peyer's patch dentritic cells and macrophages in the recognition, uptake, and initiation of mucosal immune responses towards intestinal microbes. She has initiated ex vivo binding studies as well as Peyer's patch infections using Salmonella enterica and Candida albicans, and is studying the mechanism(s) that determines selective sampling of antigens and SIgA-IC by M-cells and how uptake of these complexes contributes to tolerogenic or inflammatory immune responses. De Jesus is the Secretary of the Eastern New York Branch of ASM, and previously, she established anASMStudent Chapter and, later, the fırstASM Postdoctoral Chapter. She is a member of the General Meeting Junior Advisory Committee, and serves on the ASM Translators Network. She also mentors minority undergraduates at the Wadsworth Center. De Jesus used the Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women (CDGPW) award to travel to Stuart Levitz' laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to study a T-cell proliferation assay developed by Levitz.
Upon completing her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, Nikki Dellas began postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute, and then moved to Mark Young's archaeal virology lab at Montana State University to continue postdoctoral training. Integrating chemistry with biology, her research explores how a given virus can cross-infect multiple domains of life. She studies cloning, overexpression, mutagenesis, protein overexpression/purifıcation, and in vivo infection in reference to essential enzymes of an archaeal virus that infects Sulfolobus solfataricus. She investigates the characterization of small RNAs throughout the course of a viral infection and performs experiments that progress toward the modifıcation of the virus such that it can infect a bacterium, and vice versa. Through her studies, she hopes to gain insight into whether there is fundamental biological machinery that is conserved and transposable throughout all domains of life, what defınes the boundaries by which a virus can infect a host of a different domain of life, and what can be inferred about horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and its role in maintaining/obscuring the three domains of life structure. Dellas used the CDGPW grant to attend the biennial Viruses of Microbes conference in Brussels, Belgium, and also visited the Pasteur Institute to work with Patrick Forterre.
Katherine S. Ralston received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is now conducting postdoctoral research in William A. Petri's Laboratory at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on Entamoeba histolytica, a parasite that causes tremendous morbidity and mortality in the developing world, remains a serious threat for travelers, and is a potential bioterrorism agent. Using a multidisciplinary approach, she determined that E. histolytica does not kill human cells by inducing apoptosis, as previously believed. She discovered that E. histolytica uses a novel mechanism for killing human cells, whereby, within one minute of human cell contact, E. histolytica internalizes distinct pieces of the targeted cell. This "partial ingestion" or "chewing" of the human cell precedes the appearance of markers for cell death and is required for cell killing. To ascertain whether additional toxins or effectors are employed, Ralston has initiated studies into amoebic intracellular acidic vesicles to determine if they contain any putative cytotoxic effectors. Ralston has taught basic biology to junior high school students at an underprivileged school, served as a universitylevel teaching assistant, and mentored undergraduate students in laboratory research. Ralston used the CDGPW award to attend the 2012 Gordon Conference on Cell Death.
The 2013 Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women program is currently accepting applications. Three grants ($1,200 each) are given annually to postdoctoral women of outstanding scientifıc accomplishment and potential for additional signifıcant 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/awards/students-young-investigators/121-whats-new/membership/1120-womens-career-development-grants.