On Day 3 of the St. Jude PIDS Conference, Dr. Bonnie Bassler will present the 36th Erskine Lecture. The John H. Erskine Lecture in Infectious Diseases is a highly anticipated event held to commemorate the Memphis yellow fever outbreak of 1878 and to honor the Memphis city health officer who served during that catastrophic year.
Yellow fever had a devastating effect on Memphis. Of the 40,000 residents living there in 1878, some 20,000 left in one week following reports of the outbreak. Of the 20,000 remaining residents, 17,500 contracted the disease and 5,100 died – Dr. John Erskine was one of these individuals.
This year’s Erskine Lecture speaker, Dr. Bassler, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.
“Dr. Bassler has made fundamental contributions to the field of bacterial communication. Microbes conduct a dialog using small molecules to coordinate functions as a population in a process known as quorum sensing. First described for bacterial competence for the uptake of DNA in the 1970s, Dr. Bassler greatly expanded this concept to complex communities such as biofilms. Biofilms are resilient structures that she has studied down to the single cell level,” stated Dr. Elaine Tuomanen. “They are widespread in medicine as they coat catheters and form in human vasculature, especially in the heart. Biofilms are exceptionally hard to eradicate as they harbor bacteria of many phenotypes that escape antibiotic killing, such as tolerance, persistence, and resistance.”
She began her career receiving a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California at Davis, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. She performed postdoctoral work in Genetics at the Agouron Institute and joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. Dr. Bassler is a passionate advocate for diversity in the sciences and she is actively involved in and committed to science education. She has also received many awards, honors and significant recognition, such as the following: