Apr 13, 2012
Life scientist is honored as a Searle Scholar
UCLA life scientist Elissa Hallem
is among 15 exceptional scientists selected to be 2012 Searle Scholars. Hallem is an assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and a member of UCLA’s Molecular Biology Institute.
Her laboratory studies interactions between animal parasites and their hosts. She and her research team use both parasitic nematodes and a tiny worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans in their research. They study the neurobiology of host-seeking behavior, including the neural circuits and signaling pathways that underlie the ability of parasitic nematodes to detect and respond to host olfactory cues. They are also studying the responses of C. elegans to these same host cues to better understand how the nervous system of a parasite differs from that of a free-living animal.
In addition, her laboratory is studying the immune response to nematode infection. For this research, she and her research team use insect-parasitic nematodes as model parasites and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogasteras as a model host.
"Elissa’s work is wonderfully interdisciplinary," said Jeffery F. Miller, professor and chair of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, who holds UCLA’s M. Philip Davis Chair in Microbiology and Immunology. "She is addressing a fundamental problem in host-parasite interactions using a combination of genetics, neurobiology and behavioral studies that is unique in the field of pathogenesis. We are fortunate to have been able to recruit her to UCLA."
The Searle Scholars Program
supports research of outstanding assistant professors who have demonstrated innovative research with the potential for making significant contributions to biological research in time. It has been administered by Kinship Foundation since 1996.
The new Searle Scholars "are bold enough to embark on high-risk projects that offer the promise of leading to major advances in the basic sciences and to a deeper understanding of such scourges as tuberculosis, inflammatory diseases cancer and atherosclerosis," said Searle Scholars scientific director Doug Fambrough.
Last year, Hallem was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The award is given to exceptional young researchers based on their "outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge."
She was also selected as a 2011 Rita Allen Foundation Scholar
, for which the criteria include attention to innovation, focus on areas of global concern, opportunities for lasting outcomes, collaborations and a demonstration of leadership.
Hallem earned her Ph.D. from Yale in 2005. For more information on her research, go here