Two TGen students receive SRP grants for antibiotic resistance and Alzheimer's research

Two Arizona university graduate students working at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) have each received $50,000 grants from the Salt River Project (SRP).

Jolene Bowers, a Research Associate III at TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division in Flagstaff, and Brooke Hjelm, a Research Associate in TGen's Neurogenomics Division in Phoenix, are each the recipients of $50,000 awards from SRP's Arizona Graduate Student Support Program.

This program promotes the recruitment, development and retention at TGen of high quality graduate students from Arizona universities, and highlights TGen's commitment to the training and career development of Arizona's future scientists and technical innovators.

"Thanks to the caring employees of SRP, graduate students from Arizona universities have the opportunity to grow their skills at TGen and become valued members of Arizona's expanding biomedical workforce," said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, the non-profit fundraising arm of TGen.

"Our partnership with TGen stretches back to its very first days and we are proud to continue supporting the important work being done by its staff and by graduate students from Arizona universities," said SRP General Manager Mark Bonsall.

Bowers is studying several antibiotic-resistant diseases: Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumonia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumonia.

"Antibiotic resistance rates in these bacteria are at unprecedented levels, and leave few therapeutic options for patients with these infections," Bowers said. "We need to understand the genetic mechanisms behind this resistance, as well as how these mechanisms are shared within and among species, in order to make more informed decisions about antibiotic use, patient therapy and outbreak prevention measures."

Bowers also is working towards a Ph.D. in Biology at Northern Arizona University.

In Dr. David Craig's Lab at TGen's Phoenix headquarters, Hjelm is developing models for the study of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease.

"Many neurodegenerative diseases are commonly misdiagnosed in live human subjects," said Hjelm, whose study will compare the DNA of patients' tissues after death with clinical examinations before they died. She hopes to create models that could help study the effects of genetic variants that are associated with increased risk, or protection against, the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.

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