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Tanya Schneider, assistant professor of chemistry, has been awarded the Cottrell College Science Award by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). The award provides a $35,000 grant, which will fund summer research positions for four Connecticut College students who will work with Schneider to mitigate the rise in antibiotic resistance. The Cottrell College Science Award supports research by faculty who are early in their careers. Connecticut College is providing a $10,000 partial match to support Schneider's work. In addition to funding student research, the award will provide equipment and supplies. Schneider's research aims to understand a process called "quorum sensing," or the way in which bacteria communicate by producing small molecules into their local environment.
"As a bacterial colony grows and produces more signaling molecules, other neighboring bacteria detect their presence," Schneider said. "The goal is to increase understanding of bacterial enzymes that enable the production of the signaling molecules in order to inhibit their activity." Schneider and her student researchers will concentrate on disabling the quorum sensing systems, so conventional antibiotics can become more effective. Schneider, who earned her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2001, joined Connecticut College in 2010. She previously taught at Smith College and spent several years as a scientist in the biotech industry.
Her postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School, funded by the American Cancer Society, probed the mechanisms by which bacteria produce epothilone, a promising new anti-cancer drug. "Encouraging and supporting early-career scientists and their students is of crucial national importance, as the United States seeks to maintain its preeminence in scientific innovation," said James M. Gentile, president and CEO of RCSA. "These awards provide 'seed' funding for significant research at primarily undergraduate institutions, help early-career faculty establish research programs and encourage undergraduate students to pursue research interests - all of which are essential to our future as scientific innovators."