One of Science’s Highest Honors

May 06, 2019

Congratulations to our Edward H. Egelman, PhD, on his election to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the greatest honors a scientist can receive.

Dr. Egelman, of our Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, uses cryo-electron microscopy and 3D modeling to map out the world that is far too small for even the most powerful light microscopes to see. That may sound esoteric, but it’s really quite cool. So cool his work has repeatedly drawn national and international attention, such as when he revealed the “anchor” urinary tract infections use to take hold. He’s also shown us how an almost indestructible virus lives happily in nearly boiling acid and, more recently, how weird bacteria that live in soil and sediment conduct electricity,

Why is this important? Because this foundational science paves the way for new treatments and breakthroughs. For example, understanding how UTIs can cling inside the urethra despite the tremendous force of urine flow helps us devise ways to keep them from doing so. The discovery about the electricity-conducting bacteria paves the way for tiny but uber-powerful batteries and pacemakers without wires.

Dr. Egelman is involved in such diverse projects because of his very particular set of skills. His department chairman, Anindya Dutta, MD, PhD, has dubbed him “the world’s go-to person” for developing imaging and mathematical tools to understand filaments formed by DNA and proteins. He is well known (and his expertise much sought after) for creating techniques to determine the atomic structure of spiral-shaped structures commonly encountered in nature, such as the hair-like pilli on the surface of bacteria.

It’s always fun to go talk with Dr. Egelman, because he’s always up to something interesting. It’s wonderful to see his work recognized by his peers at such an elite level.

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