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Lori Burrows Elected to American Academy of Microbiology

We are thrilled to announce our very own Lori Burrows, IIDR member and Professor & Associate Chair Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University was one of 73 fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) this past February. Fellows hail from all over the globe, and Burrows is one of only two scientists from Canada elected this year.

The AAM is an honorific leadership group within the American Society of for Microbiology who are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

In total, there are over 2,400 fellows who represent subspecialties of the microbial sciences including IIDR director, Gerry Wright and IIDR member, Eric Brown. This year, Wright, along with two fellows from the U.S., nominated Burrows for a spot.

“This award means a lot to me and I’m grateful to Gerry. He hired me the year before the IIDR began in 2006, so it looks like he has continued to be a fan,” Burrows joked. “It’s an honour because you’re being recognized by your peers as being someone who is a leader in their field.”

Since joining the IIDR, Burrows has earned a number of accolades for her research, which focuses on answering how bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics. She aims to answer this question by studying biofilms (communities of bacteria that grow on a surface, making cells more tolerant to antibiotics) and Type IV pili (T4P).

A major focus of her research is characterization of the T4P system. T4P are thin protein fibres that extend from the poles of bacterial cells and are used for attachment and surface-associated twitching motility, which allows bacteria to rapidly colonize new territory. Burrows’ passion for this area of research is clearly evident in the way she describes it:

“Bacteria make these cool organelles they use for travelling. We’re best known for actually figuring out how the pieces of the machinery fit together and how it works, she explained. “Because T4P are virulence factors, that information can give you a road map on how to inhibit their function. We want to understand how it works so that we can eventually learn how to mess with it.”

Burrows added that this award is important in showing students in her lab that promoting your own work and the work of your fellow colleagues is a necessary part of being a scientist.

“I hope my students see that if their mentor can get this type of award, one day, so can they.”