EPFL microbiologist Melanie Blokesch has had an exceptional year so far: After receiving an ERC Consolidator Grant worth two Million Euros, she was named one of 25 women whose research changes the world by the German periodical "Die Zeit".
Now, there is even more to celebrate: Recently, Prof Blokesch was awarded a prestigious scholarship from four of the highest endowed charitable foundations – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. As an International Research Scholar, she will receive funds worth 650 000 $ (approximately 558 000 €) over the next five years. Blokesch – as well as an additional 40 biomedical scientists who will receive this grant – was selected from a pool of more than 1400 applicants. All participated in a competition for the scholarships, which was announced in March 2016. Eligible researchers were defined as those that were still early in their career (less than seven years as independent group leaders) and had spent some of their training period in the UK or the US. A group of renowned scientists evaluated the applications and selected researchers with excellent track records, unique skill sets and promising research proposals. The award is meant to support projects that lead the researchers to new, potentially ground-breaking, discoveries.
Prof Blokesch's project on cholera transmission convinced the jury. She plans to map molecular tools the bacterium Vibrio cholerae – the bug that causes cholera – uses to jump from the environment to humans. That knowledge would help researchers understand which factors increase the risk of cholera outbreaks in endemic regions, such as Central Africa or India, where the disease still causes an estimated 30 000 deaths each year.
(© AcademiaNet / HHMI)