University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center microbiologist Dr. Neal Alto (photo) has been named a recipient of the 2017 Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research for his work on interspecies communication between disease-causing bacteria and the humans they infect. The Welch Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry, presents the $100,000 award annually to honor early-career scientists at Texas institutions who are expanding the frontiers of chemistry. The award is named after Dr. Norman Hackerman, an internationally known chemist and former president of both the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University. Dr. Alto, an Associate Professor of Microbiology, is the sixth UT Southwestern researcher to receive the award since it was first given in 2002. This year marks the first time the award has been presented to two scientists; the other recipient is Dr. Delia J. Milliron of UT Austin for her research on semiconductor nanocrystals. “Dr. Alto’s insights into the intersection between bacteria and our immune defense system have the potential to lead to new approaches to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, which remain among the most challenging health problems worldwide,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern and holder of the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science. “Through the application of his expertise in both microbiology and chemistry, we are confident that with the support of this award, Dr. Alto will make significant further advances in this vital area of research, and we are proud to see him honored in this way.” The Alto laboratory studies bacterial toxins that interfere with essential processes of human cells.
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