Nav: Home

Grimes awarded Sloan Research Fellowship for work on chronic inflammatory diseases

February 22, 2017

It's not every day that you're congratulated in a full-page ad in The New York Times. That's a special recognition University of Delaware professor Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes received on Tuesday, Feb. 21, when she and other selected scientists were announced as Sloan Research Fellowship winners.

The prestigious two-year, $60,000 fellowship is awarded annually to 126 early-career scholars from the U.S. and Canada whose accomplishments mark them as the next generation of scientific leaders.

"The Sloan Research Fellows are the rising stars of the academic community," said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "Through their achievements and ambition, these young scholars are transforming their fields and opening up entirely new research horizons. We are proud to support them at this crucial stage of their careers."

Grimes, assistant professor in UD's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will use her fellowship to investigate how chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma and Crohn's disease, arise.

Her work focuses on organisms you can't see and can't live without -- bacteria. Each of us carts around about three pounds of bacteria, in our stomachs and intestines, on our skin and lots of other places. Most are beneficial, helping with myriad functions, from digesting lunch to healing a bruise. Some are harmful, causing infections and disease.

Bacteria naturally shed tiny fragments of their cell wall as they grow, like lint from a jacket. If these fragments come from harmful bacteria, your immune system responds accordingly by waging war on the nasty invaders.

Sometimes, however, a case of mistaken identity occurs -- the cell wall fragments may have been sloughed by beneficial bacteria, but the immune system misreads them and winds up attacking healthy tissue. That scenario has been implicated in Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and cancer.

Grimes hypothesizes that these diseases erupt from a discrete set of bacterial cell wall fragments and that the body has mechanisms to sense such molecules. To test this hypothesis, she and her laboratory group are enlisting a full-court press of scientific techniques, from synthetic organic chemistry, to molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry and microbiology.

"I feel extremely lucky to have such a diverse group of research students who are just as dedicated to these projects as I am," Grimes said. "Together we are unveiling how our immune systems keep track of both the good and bad bacteria."

As a Sloan Research Fellow, Grimes is in prestigious company. In her own department at UD, she notes that her colleagues Joel Rosenthal, Doug Taber, Thomas Beebe and Klaus Theopold -- all past winners of the fellowship -- provide excellent examples of dynamic research programs.

In the wider scientific community, past awardees include such towering figures as physicist Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann and game theorist John Nash. Forty-three former fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 16 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007.

Grimes was named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2014, won the Cottrell Scholar Award in 2015 and received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2016.

She graduated summa cum laude from Villanova University, earned her master's degree in chemistry from Princeton University and her doctorate in chemistry from Harvard. She joined the UD faculty in 2011.

Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corp., the Sloan Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics. The foundation is based in New York City.

University of Delaware

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...