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  • 01/29/18

    Shabnam Sharifzadeh receives Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

Shabnam Sharifzadeh, a fifth-year graduate student working with Professor Erin Carlson, has been awarded an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship for the 2018-19 academic year.

Shabnam is interested in studying antibacterial targets. With the alarming rise of antibiotic resistance, it is critical to obtain better understanding of known targets, in order to manipulate them more efficiently. Currently, she is studying biosynthesis of bacterial cell wall and enzymes involved with this process as important antibacterial targets. Bacterial cell wall, also known as peptidoglycan (PG) layer, is an external layer that surrounds most prokaryotic cells, and protects the cells again osmolysis, while also defining cellular shape, size and integrity. Biosynthesis of peptidoglycan is a very complicated process, and Shabnam is specifically interested in a family of enzymes known as penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), which catalyze the final stages of PG synthesis and assembly. Penicillins and other beta-lactam antibiotics comprise the largest class of antibacterial agents that cause bacterial cell lysis and death through inhibition of PBPs. As a chemical biology research group, Professor Carlson's researchers develop chemical probes to selectively tag and monitor the activity of PBPs in live cells. With the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Shabnam wants to apply those chemical probes in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) because it is a clinically significant strain; yet, its cell wall biosynthesis has remained poorly understood.

For this research, Shabnam will be co-mentored by two investigators from the Program in Infection and Immunity, professors Anthony Baughn and Ryan Hunter, along with Carlson, her thesis adviser. She will acquire Mycobacterial strains with attenuated pathogenicity from Professors Baughn’s research lab while being trained to handle and genetically manipulate Mtb. She will perform the experiments located in the Microbiology Research Facility (MRF) and her current research lab, as needed. Shabnam will conduct super-resolution microscopy experiments at the University Imaging Center, under the direct supervision of Professor Hunter. Through this collaboration, she will receive advanced training in microbiology, genetics, and microscopy techniques to augment her chemical biology expertise. 

Through the fellowship, Shabnem will a stipend of $25,000, plus tuition for up to 14 credits per semester.