Header Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology

Supported by the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology, the Selman A. Waksman Award is presented to recognize a major advance in the field of microbiology.

Susan Gottesman, NIH Distinguished Investigator and co-chief, laboratory of molecular biology at the National Cancer Institute, is the 2015 Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology. 

The DNA inside a cell contains instructions to make proteins. To create a protein, first the DNA is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA). Then the mRNA undergoes translation, during which a ribosome reads the mRNA sequence and assembles amino acids into a protein. Cells use various mechanisms to control the steps in this process and guide which proteins are made, when and in what amounts. Mechanisms that act after the DNA is transcribed fall into a category known as posttranscriptional regulation. Gottesman’s work has focused on two mechanisms in bacterial cells— controlled proteolysis and small RNAs—and particularly on how those mechanisms affect bacteria’s response to stress. Proteolysis is the breakdown of proteins into simpler molecules. Gottesman uncovered the critical role that controlled proteolysis plays in bacterial cells, linking the mechanism to protein folding and misfolding as well as the cell’s stress response. She and her collaborators identified a family of energy-dependent proteases (enzymes that perform proteolysis) that act as the bacterial equivalent of the proteasome protein complexes found in the cells of higher-order organisms. Gottesman’s lab then expanded its focus to the role that small RNAs play in regulation in E. coli and other bacteria. Small RNAs do not contain coding for proteins; instead, they interact with mRNAs or proteins to control gene expression in a cell. Gottesman and her colleagues uncovered a collection of small RNAs and established their unique role in bacterial cell regulation, which has had a significant impact in the understanding of regulatory networks within these organisms.


Susan Gottesman (2015)
For transforming our understanding of post-transcriptional regulation in bacteria through mechanisms of controlled proteolysis and small RNAs.

Jeffrey I. Gordon (2013)
For his pioneering interdisciplinary studies on the human microbiome and for defining the genomic and metabolic foundations of its contributions to health and disease.

Carol A. Gross (2011)
For her pioneering studies on mechanisms of gene transcription and its control, and for defining the roles of sigma factors during homeostasis and under stress.

Jonathan Beckwith (2009)
For fundamental contributions to gene regulation, protein targeting and secretion, and disulfide biochemistry, and also for the development of gene fusions as an experimental tool.

Richard M. Losick (2007)
For discovering alternative bacterial sigma factors and his fundamental contributions to understanding the mechanism of bacterial sporulation.

Lucy Shapiro (2005)
For her pioneering work revealing the bacterial cell as an integrated system with transcriptional circuitry interwoven with the 3-D deployment of regulatory and morphological proteins.

Stanley Falkow (2003)
For his many contributions to understanding the mechanisms by which bacteria cause infection and disease.

Norman R. Pace (2001)
For revolutionizing microbiology by developing methods by which microorganisms can be directly detected, identified, and phylogenetically related without the need for cultivation in the laboratory.

R. John Collier (1999)
For his seminal contribution to the understanding of bacterial pathogenesis by the elucidation of the action of the diptheria toxin.

Carl R. Woese (1997)
For discovering a kingdom of life, the Archaea—using ribosomal RNA sequences for phylogenetic studies of microorganisms—which has influenced concepts of evolution and microbial ecology and has had major technical and industrial applications.

Ralph S. Wolfe (1995)
For elucidating the biochemical pathway of the reduction of carbon dioxide to methane in microorganisms and in the course of this work defining new biochemical pathways, enzymes, and cofactors.

Boris Magasanik (1993)
For his contributions to our understanding of catabolite repression, amino acid metabolism, and regulation of nitrogen metabolism in bacteria.

Melvin I. Simon (1991)
For his discoveries in the field of bacterial chemotaxis, including the elucidation of flagellar phase variation and of flagellar motor activation by receptor-mediated signals transmitted through protein-phosphoryl-group transfers.

Bernard D. Davis (1989)
For his ingenious development of the penicillin technique for isolating mutants and leadership in its application to microbial physiology.

Harland G. Wood (1986)
For his classic studies in mechanisms of carbon dioxide fixation in heterotrophic bacteria, which have spanned a half century and have revolutionized our understanding of the biochemical roles of carbon dioxide.

Purnell W. Choppin (1984)
For his discoveries of new mechanisms in the replication of myxo- and paramyxoviruses, in viral pathogenesis, and in viral gene expression.

Irwin C. Gunsalus (1982)
For his pioneering studies in microbial biochemistry.

Julius Adler (1980)
For his pioneering studies on motility and chemotaxis in bacteria.

Howard Green (1978)
For his fundamental contributions to the biology of cultured animal cells.

Wallace P. Rowe (1976)
For his fundamental contributions to our understanding of the biology of oncogenic viruses.

Renato Dulbecco (1974)
For his extension to animal viruses the precise quantitative methods that had been developed with bacterial viruses, thereby revealing the integration of tumor viruses into host chromosomes.

Charles Yanofsky (1972)
For his outstanding contributions to many aspects of microbial and molecular genetics.

E. R. Stadtman (1970)
For his outstanding contributions in the field of microbial biochemistry.

Jack L. Strominger (1968)
For his elegant studies on the biosynthesis of the bacterial cell wall and the mode of action of antibiotics.


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