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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Bassler selected as Howard Hughes investigator

Princeton biologist Bonnie Bassler has been chosen to become a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, one of the highest honors in biomedical research.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) selected Bassler to be among 43 of the nation's most promising scientists who will join the institute's prestigious investigator program, which provides long-term, flexible funding for open-ended research.

"We are committed to providing these scientists -- and the nearly 300 scientists who are already part of HHMI -- with the freedom and flexibility they need in order to make lasting contributions to mankind," said Thomas Cech, president of HHMI, a nonprofit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Md. "We want and expect them to be daring."

Bassler, who in 2002 received a MacArthur "genius grant" fellowship, investigates bacterial signaling and has discovered finely tuned systems by which bacteria communicate with other members of their species and with other species. The research may be useful in developing new antibiotics.

"I am delighted that Bonnie Bassler was selected by HHMI to be one of their new cadre of investigators," said Lynn Enquist, chair of the Department of Molecular Biology. "It is clear that HHMI recognizes what we at Princeton have known for some time: Bonnie's energy and delight in science are unbounded, her scientific insight is remarkable, and her trajectory is up, up, up. She also brings leadership, vision and exceptional teaching to our department. The HHMI honor is well deserved."

Under the HHMI investigator program, scientists become employees of the institute while retaining their faculty positions at their home institution. HHMI assumes the scientists' salaries and provides support staff, freeing the investigators from pressure to seek grants. The formal appointment process can take up to six months.

Bassler joins two other Princeton faculty members who are HHMI investigators: Eric Wieschaus and Trudi Schupbach, both professors of molecular biology. President Shirley M. Tilghman left her position as an HHMI investigator in 2001 when she became president of the University.

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