Iruka Okeke Awarded $536,235 National Science Foundation Grant
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Associate Professor of Biology Iruka Okeke a $536,235 grant to fund her project“RUI: Aggregation and Colonization Mediated by Bacterial Surface Factors.” This is the second time the NSF has renewed support of this study. The first award covered 2005 through 2010, the second ran through this year, and this new grant will fund work done through 2016.
Okeke's research seeks to better understand bacteria, the most abundant life forms on earth, and how their communities are established, persist, and grow inside other organisms. This project investigates the proteins that allow bacteria to colonize multicellular organisms, such as humans. Part of the impact of this work is to engage undergraduate students in research, increasing their interest in the sciences and retaining young science students. This NSF grant, therefore, funds more than half of Okeke's students' summer research projects and thesis research, as well coursework and examples that Okeke can bring into her classroom teaching. Student who are currently working on aspects of the project are Lawrence Wang '14, who started his senior research this past summer, and Wenyu Pan BMC '14, who is just beginning this fall.