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Microbiology professor becomes UC Merced’s first Pew scholar

Biomedical researcher Clarissa Nobile was named UC Merced’s first Pew Scholar on Thursday
Biomedical researcher Clarissa Nobile was named UC Merced’s first Pew Scholar on Thursday Veronica Adrover, UC Merced

A University of California at Merced professor was one of 22 researchers named as a Pew Biomedical Scholar on Thursday for her work with communities of microbes.

Clarissa Nobile, 35, is the first UC Merced researcher to win a Pew scholar award. She joins more than 600 scientists from across the country who have been selected as Pew scholars in the program’s 30-year history, UC Merced announced.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to researchers who show promise in the advancement of human health, according to the program’s website. The researchers are awarded a total of $240,000 over the course of four years.

“These types of awards are for research that is considered high risk, high reward,” Nobile said. “It is an honor to have been nominated by UC Merced, and an even bigger honor to have been selected.”

Nobile said the award is one of the highest recognitions of her young career. She was a postdoctoral researcher at UC San Francisco before arriving at UC Merced in early 2014.

“Professor Nobile is a shining example of the outstanding research being conducted at UC Merced, and highly deserving of this recognition,” Juan Meza, dean of the School of Natural Sciences, said in a news release. “We are proud of her accomplishments and look forward to her continued advancements in this important area of study.”

The Pew scholar award, Nobile explained, will help fund her research in the field of biofilms, which refers to microbial communities that can develop in the human body or in nature and are known to be resistant to antimicrobial treatment.

Her lab studies microbes in the natural form – from the ecosystem context rather than on the individual organisms. With her work, Nobile hopes to to change the way scientists look at microbial interactions and create better ways to combat infectious disease.

Nobile shared that she first became interested in this field of research in graduate school when her mother became ill with a biofilm infection. “She had an infection that spread everywhere and I couldn’t believe that in this modern age we don’t have a way to treat or predict these infections.”

The professor expects her research will result in preliminary data that will allow her to apply for bigger awards.

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