Dr. Brian Hammer (Assistant Professor, School of Biology), was recently honored with an award from the Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Program at the National Science Foundation. The CAREER award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through effective integration of outstanding research and excellent education. Hammer was chosen for this highly competitive award from among the very best young scientists in the United States. The award provides $900,000 over five years to support his research project in molecular microbiology.
The overall goal of Dr. Hammer's research project is to understand the contribution of extracellular chemical signaling in the exchange of genetic material that accelerates bacterial adaptation. The process of natural transformation is one mechanism that bacteria use for such horizontal gene transfer. The bacterium Vibrio cholerae, a common marine inhabitant and causative agent of the fatal cholera disease, induces the uptake of extracellular DNA in response to two signaling pathways, a chitin utilization system and a bacterial cell-cell communication (or "quorum sensing") system. The project will identify novel genes, proteins, and regulatory connections of the natural transformation network in Vibrio cholerae to dissect the role that both habitat and genetics play in the evolution of this bacterial pathogen.
A major component of Dr. Hammer’s CAREER project includes activities that promote integration of academic community members with the broader society in the process of modern scientific discovery. Dr. Hammer hosts seventh grade science teacher, Mr. David Taube, and an undergraduate student to work in his lab each summer. During the academic year this team engages ethnically diverse urban K-12 students in stimulating hands-on scientific activities, which will be shared with local educators that teach under-represented minority students in the metro-Atlanta area.