Trinity Microbiologists Win Harry Smith Vacation Studentships

Four microbiologists from Trinity College Dublin have won Harry Smith Vacation Studentships to support undergraduate research projects in their labs in the Moyne Institute of Preventive Medicine this summer. The studentships, awarded by the Society for General Microbiology, will underpin projects that span three of the major themes of microbiology: bacteriology, virology and eukaryotic microbiology.

One bacteriology project will attempt to better understand what causes strains of bacteria associated with eczema to stick to a protein in the skin, while the other will try to shed light on how ‘cold shock’ proteins, expressed in cold temperatures, help regulate antibiotic resistance in a common bacterial strain of Salmonella. Students Elaine Moloney and Matthew Dorman will be working in the labs of Assistant Professors in Microbiology at Trinity, Dr Joan Geoghegan and Dr Shane Dillon, respectively.

A virology research project will explore how the drug Oseltamivir decreases the cell-to-cell spread of the flu virus, and will be pursued by Dylan Sheerin in Dr Kim Roberts’ lab. The eukaryotic microbiology project will investigate genetic functioning in the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a key component in baking and brewing. Marina Bogue will work in the lab of Dr Alastair Fleming. Both Dr Roberts and Dr Fleming are Assistant Professors in Microbiology at Trinity.

Commenting on the awards, Head of Department and Professor of Microbiology at Trinity, Charles Dorman, said: “It is a tribute to our staff that they were awarded so many studentships over such a wide range of microbiological research themes. These awards will allow four talented undergraduate students to conduct real research over the summer months, which will significantly deepen their educational experience at Trinity.”

Professor Harry Smith, CBE FRS (1921-2011), was a major figure in microbiology in the 20th Century. He was the first to discover a bacterial toxin (anthrax) in 1954 while he was working at the Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down. This landmark event developed the field of microbial pathogenesis, and Harry became the leading advocate worldwide for the study of disease-causing microbes in the environment of their hosts.

He held the Chair of Microbiology at Birmingham University (1965-1988) and was a key advisor to Trinity in filling its Chair of Microbiology in 1976 and 1993. Professor Smith served as President of the Society for General Microbiology (1975-1978) and was instrumental in establishing the Federation of European Microbiology Societies.

Following his death in 2011, the Society for General Microbiology named its summer vacation studentship scheme in his honour. Harry Smith Vacation Studentships provide a stipend for each undergraduate researcher as well as some support for their research costs. Further information about the scheme is available here.

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