Q&A with Dr. Anne Grove, 2018 AAAS Fellow
By Dawn Jenkins
Anne Grove, biochemist and Gregory Cannaday Burns Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is one of four LSU professors named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Grove was elected for her distinguished contributions in the field of protein-nucleic acid interactions and the mentoring and training of the next generation of scientists.
As we prepare to celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Grove and her colleagues, she took a moment to talk with us about her research and what she loves most about her work.
Tell me bit about your research?
The research in my lab concerns mechanisms by which cells cope with stress. For example, when a bacterial pathogen infects a host, a tug-of-war ensues in which the host aims to defend itself against the pathogen and kill it. The bacterium in turn responds to this new environmental stress, a response that is required to survive in the face of adversity and to establish the infection. In fact, the bacteria often use the very defense compounds produced by the host as a signal to ramp up expression of genes that promote virulence. We are focusing on bacterial transcription factors that respond to such host-derived signals to trigger expression of extremely harmful genes. Understanding mechanisms by which bacterial pathogens change gene expression programs in response to the environmental cues associated with host infection is critical for development of interventions aimed at combating bacterial infections.
What do you love most about your research work?
The process. Even more than the end result, I enjoy the process of discovery and learning something new about the systems we study. When we perform an experiment and the outcome is different from what we expect, that is a particularly good day! This is an opportunity to make new discoveries and make substantive headway. And getting to share this process of discovery with enthusiastic students just makes it so much more fun.
What led you to LSU?
Chance, I suppose. I was very impressed with the Department and the faculty I spoke with at the job interview. I definitely felt that this was an environment in which I would be able to establish my research program and be able to recruit and train motivated graduate and undergraduate students.
What role has LSU played in enhancing or supporting your research?
By furnishing a supportive and stimulating environment that encourages interaction and exchange of ideas.
Why is your research important to the world?
Multidrug resistance is an increasingly important problem, and more and more bacterial strains emerge that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. By uncovering processes by which bacteria successfully invade and colonize their hosts, we hope to pave the way towards the development of new antibacterial agents.
What do you love most about being a professor?
The opportunity to combine research and teaching. I enjoy the process of discovery, solving riddles, and conquering challenging research questions. I equally enjoy the process of training and mentoring research students, celebrating their successes, and preparing them for the next step in their careers. I have also been fortunate enough to teach subjects that I am passionate about. Contributing towards the development of the discipline is exciting, but there is nothing more gratifying than seeing students grow personally and prosper in their chosen endeavors.
What are your hopes for the future of your research?
It is my hope that I will remain able to maintain an active research group and to contribute towards expanding knowledge in the field and to the training of a diverse STEM workforce. Scientific literacy is key to tackling the many challenging circumstances that face the nation, and I hope to continue to participate in attracting and guiding talented students who can sustain the momentum of discovery and education.
Other AAAS fellows from LSU are Prosanta Chakrabarty, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of fishes in the LSU Museum of Natural Science; Kyle Harms, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; and Wayne Newhauser, the Dr. Charles M. Smith Chair of Medical Physics, professor and director of the LSU Medical and Health Physics. These leading LSU scientists will be recognized at a Fellows Forum on February 16 during the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.