Who are the role models for African Americans considering careers as scientific researchers?  Who are the mentors? Right now, those mentors are rarely African Americans. I am among the generation of women scientists who trained at a time when there were few female scientific mentors. My mentor — a white male — taught me bacteriology, genetic methods, and how to think like a scientist. This training led to the work of my lab which is to show that bacteria, primitive single-celled organisms, communicate with chemical languages that allow them to synchronize their behavior and thereby act as enormous multi-cellular organisms. This process, called quorum sensing, enables bacteria to successfully infect and cause disease in humans. My lab group is now developing strategies to interfere with quorum sensing that may yield novel antibiotics. The members of my lab: undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs; are the young experimental and idea engines that drive scientific progress.  In this Baldwin Lecture, I will share my group’s research on quorum sensing, some ideas about mentoring and role models, and how, in my role as Graduate Director, I have focused on the challenge of racial disparity in biological science education at Princeton. There is good news.

April 22, 2008 12:00 AM