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MSU’s Parent Gets 2018 NSF CAREER Award

Kristin Parent

Kristin Parent, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Michigan State University, received $794,331 from NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences for research that focuses on underlying mechanisms that control gene transfer from transducing bacteriophages. The goal of the project is to fully characterize the mechanism(s) of phage-mediated evolution within complex microbial networks and ultimately examine these networks in an environment that mimics the human gut.

Parent is one of six Michigan State University College of Natural Science (NatSci) women scientists to receive National Science Foundation (NSF) Early CAREER Faculty Awards in 2018. The occasion, which marks the first time that six NSF Early CAREER Awards have been given to a single college—and to six women faculty members in the same year—is unprecedented at MSU. The five-year (2018-2023) grants collectively total more than $3.6 million.

The CAREER Award is one of NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early career faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

“Microbes rarely exist in nature as purely isolated organisms. Instead, they interact with multiple other partners in the broader context of a microbiome,” Parent said. “Since bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria, play essential roles in shaping bacterial evolution, it is imperative that we understand the impact of these viruses within the context of complex microbial communities.

“I am delighted that we have support from NSF to lead this exciting research program, and I am honored to work with students in middle and high school as part of this project. They love being a part of the research, and I am happy to be able to contribute toward their education.”

Parent’s lab also conducts pioneering research at MSU to advance the use of electron cryo-microscopy (cryoEM) and three-dimensional image reconstruction methods. Her lab includes undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting researchers.

Parent received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut in 2007 and subsequently served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, before joining MSU in 2013.  She has more than 30 published research papers, including the most recent 2018 cover story in the Journal of Virology, featuring work on isolating bacteriophages from MSU’s campus.

  • Val Osowski via the College of Natural Science website

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