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Erin Carlson: Bacterial Perception

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Recommended by: David Clemmer, Indiana University

Indiana University's Erin Carlson aims to look at the environment with a bacterium's perception. She is working on developing new chemical techniques to study bacterial pathogenesis, with the main goal of developing new proteomic techniques to examine two-component signaling in bacteria — the mechanism by which they sense the environment around them. "The goal is to create techniques to study bacterial signaling and potentially utilize the proteins we study as new therapeutic targets," Carlson says. "My lab is also very interested in the exploration of natural products, which are produced in nature as potential molecules that could act as those therapeutic agents."

Carlson became interested in studying infectious diseases during her travels around the world. "I've seen a lot of these types of infectious disease, and I felt that it was something I was interested in working on, especially diseases that don't receive a lot of attention in the United States, such as tuberculosis," she says.

But the pursuit of her interest isn't easy. "Since we use a whole facet of interdisciplinary tools, it can be very difficult to pursue studies. So my students have to be experts in organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and being able to take all of those techniques together and efficiently utilize them can be a challenge," Carlson adds.

Looking ahead

In the coming years, Carlson hopes to have developed tools to explore bacteria, discover compounds that can treat drug-resistant infections, and present new avenues of treatment that don't cause the creation of new resistant organisms as readily.

And the Nobel goes to...

If she gets a call from Stockholm, Carlson hopes it would be for having developed "a facile method to create vaccines for basically any infectious disease," she says.

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