Jun. 15, 2011
Emory Biochemist Named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Christine M. Dunham, PhD, Joins Select Community of Early-Career Scientists
Christine M. Dunham, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry in Emory University School of Medicine, has been selected by the Pew Charitable Trust as one of 22 Pew Scholars in the United States. The Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences program encourages early-career scientists to advance research that leads to important medical breakthroughs and treatments.
In her research in structural biology and pathogenesis, Dunham is exploring how disease-causing bacteria can use “toxin” proteins to promote their own survival during times of stress. When nutrients are scarce, infectious bacteria can deploy precisely targeted toxin proteins to shut down their own energy-consuming processes, allowing the microbes to conserve their resources until conditions improve.
A toxin called HigB, produced by bacteria to facilitate its infection of the human urinary tract, enhances the bacteria’s resistance to common antibiotics. Using novel techniques in structural biology and biochemistry, Dunham is investigating the function of HigB and how it regulates the processes within bacteria. Her work will reveal which nutrients are essential for bacterial survival, and will provide important insights for the development of new types of antibiotics.
Dunham earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2003. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 2008, in work with Venki Ramakrishnan, PhD, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2008 Dunham joined the faculty of Emory School of Medicine. In February 2011 the National Science Foundation awarded her a prestigious five-year Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.
“Christine Dunham has demonstrated once again her incredible talent and promise as a leading early-career scientist,” says Richard D. Cummings, PhD, chair of the Department of Biochemistry in Emory School of Medicine. “I am extremely proud of her accomplishment and recognition and believe her research will result in groundbreaking medical discoveries.”
To date, the Pew Scholars program has invested more than $125 million to fund more than 500 scholars. It is a rigorously competitive program where recipients receive $240,000 over four years to pursue their research without restriction. Applicants who work in all areas of physical and life sciences related to biomedical study must be nominated by an invited institution and demonstrate both excellence and innovation in their research. This year, 175 institutions were requested to nominate a candidate and 136 eligible nominations were received.
To view information about all the Pew Scholars, including a video, see: