NEW YORK, NY—The Rockefeller University has announced that molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will receive the 2016 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, an annual award celebrating the achievements of extraordinary women scientists. She will accept the prize during a ceremony at Rockefeller University on November 16, 2016. Reshma Saujani, founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, will present the award.
Bassler is recognized for discoveries related to a molecular mechanism that allows bacteria to communicate with each other. Termed quorum sensing, this process involves chemical signaling molecules that enable bacteria to count their cell numbers, collectively regulate gene expression, and synchronize group behaviors. Quorum sensing controls phenomena including bioluminescence, biofilm formation, and virulence. Bassler’s lab is working to develop anti-quorum-sensing molecules, which hold promise as antimicrobial compounds targeting bacteria whose virulence depends on the process.
Bassler is Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and has been the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Shaw Prize.
The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was founded in 2004 by Paul Greengard, a Nobel Prize–winning neurobiologist and Vincent Astor Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Rockefeller, and his wife, sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Greengard, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to understanding nerve cell communication in the brain, has long been an advocate for women in the sciences. He used his Nobel honorarium to seed the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, naming the award after his mother, who died during his birth.
“Dr. Bassler is teasing out secrets from the oldest form of life, and the implications are enormous,” said Greengard. “Bacteria govern many of the processes that have shaped the Earth and our place in it, and decoding their mechanisms of communication is key to boosting the benefits of commensal bacteria and negating the dangers of those that cause harm. Dr. Bassler is not just a role model for women in the sciences—rather, she sets an extraordinary example for all scientists.”
Winners of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, which carries a $100,000 honorarium, are selected by a committee of nine scientists, four of them recipients of the Nobel Prize.
Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. Through after-school clubs and summer programs that encourage and foster young girls’ interest in computer science, Girls Who Code is building a pipeline of future women engineers and computer scientists.
The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize ceremony is open to the public, but registration is required. For more information, please visit http://greengardprize.rockefeller.edu