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Women & Science Virtual Event: Tiny Conspiracies: How Bacteria Talk to Each Other

Special Event
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Join us for our virtual Women and Science event!

Recognizing Outstanding Women In Biomedical Research


HONOREE: Bonnie L. Bassler, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology and Chair of Molecular Biology at Princeton University

Learn more about Wistar’s Women & Science Program.

Bacteria can be friends and are essential for our health, but they can also be foes, causing illnesses ranging from ear infections to life-threatening septic shock. As infectious disease experts are warning, a big concern that we are facing as a secondary outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that lung damage, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, will allow bacteria to settle in and cause pneumonia that will further raise the mortality rates.

Dr. Bonnie Bassler has spent her career understanding how bacteria communicate and orchestrate their behavior, so that we can intervene. Bacterial communication, known as quorum sensing, relies on chemical messages and enables populations of bacteria to regulate gene expression, and therefore behavior, on a community-wide scale. One objective of Bassler’s team is to develop strategies that interfere with quorum sensing to combat pathogenic bacteria that use this process to regulate virulence. Join us to hear from a leading expert and scientific communicator in the field as she tells us why bacterial communication should be of great interest to all of us.

Guest Speaker Bio:

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Dr. Bonnie Bassler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. 

Bassler received a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of California at Davis and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University. She performed postdoctoral work in genetics at the Agouron Institute and joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. 

The research in her laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms that bacteria use for intercellular communication. This process is called quorum sensing. Bassler’s research is paving the way to the development of novel therapies for combating bacteria by disrupting quorum-sensing-mediated communication. 

At Princeton, Bassler teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Bassler directed the Molecular Biology Graduate Program from 2002-2008 and chaired Princeton University’s Council on Science and Technology for six years and during that time she rejuvenated the science curriculum for humanists. 

Bassler is a passionate advocate for diversity in the sciences and is actively involved in and committed to educating lay people in science. She has received many awards and honors. Bassler was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2002, was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002 and was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004. She was the 2006 recipient of the American Society for Microbiology’s Eli Lilly Investigator Award for fundamental contributions to microbiological research. In 2008, Bassler received Princeton University’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. She was the 2009 recipient of the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science for her paradigm-changing scientific research, the 2011 recipient of the National Academies’ Richard Lounsbery Award, and the 2012 UNESCO-L’Oreal Woman in Science for North America. 

In 2012, Bassler was elected to the Royal Society and to the American Philosophical Society. She was made a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2013. In 2015, she received the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine and the Ricketts Award, and, in 2016, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize and the FASEB Excellence in Science Award. Also in 2016, she won the Max Planck Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and was elected a fellow of the American Society for Cell Biology. In 2018, she was awarded the Dickson Prize in Medicine and the Ernst Schering Prize. In 2020, she received the Gruber Prize in Genetics for her groundbreaking discoveries and she also received the Genetics Society of America Medal. 

Bassler has performed a remarkable amount of national and international service. She was the President of the American Society for Microbiology in 2010-2011; She chaired the American Academy of Microbiology Board of Governors from 2011-2014; And she was a member of the National Science Board for six years and was nominated to that position by President Barack Obama. The Board oversees the National Science Foundation and prioritizes the nation’s research and educational activities in science, math, and engineering. 

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