Created in 2011, these awards recognize the remarkable contributions of postdoctoral research scholars to the UGA research enterprise. The UGA Research Foundation funds up to two awards a year to current scholars.
Monica Cartelle Gestal, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Infectious Diseases, has developed critical expertise in host-pathogen interactions of Bordetella spp., the bacteria that produce pertussis. Whooping cough, as it’s more commonly known, was designated a priority emergence infectious disease by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in 2015. Among the reasons for its rise is that the current vaccine efficiently protects against disease but not colonization or transmission. Cartelle Gestal has proposed a novel approach for vaccine and therapeutic development, focusing on the bacteria’s ability to manipulate the host response. Her work, recently submitted to Science, demonstrates that Bordetella spp. have the ability to sense the host’s response and manipulate immune signals in order to dampen adaptive immunity and increase persistence. Her research has produced a novel Bordetella spp. vaccine that has been submitted for patent and currently is being tested for dogs and cats.
Jeffrey Meier, a postdoctoral research and teaching associate in the Department of Mathematics, addresses the field of low-dimensional topology. “Low-dimensional” generally refers to dimensions less than five, and topology research often probes the structures of spaces by looking at embedded objects in those spaces. A major low-dimensional topology problem is to understand three-dimensional spaces, four-dimensional spaces and the interactions between them. Meier’s research has focused on the interplay between three- and four-dimensional topology with a special attention to knot theory in those dimensions. Knotting phenomena occur when looking at embedded surfaces in four-dimensional space. Such surfaces may be thought of as surfaces swept out in space-time by a knot that is moving around in space over a period of time. Very little is known about four-dimensional knot theory, but he has made several significant contributions to the subject since beginning his postdoctoral position.