Two scientists selected for Endowed Scholars Program

By Deborah Wormser

UT Southwestern Medical Center leaders recently announced the selection of two outstanding scientists as new Endowed Scholars, marking the 75th and 76th additions to the prestigious program.

The program, established in 1998 with $60 million in philanthropic funds, provides seed money and four-year support for early-career investigators to carry out independent, cutting-edge research projects. Each gifted basic science or clinical researcher joins the university as a tenure-track Assistant Professor.

“The Endowed Scholars Program is a crown jewel of UT Southwestern. Thanks to the support from our donors, and the commitment by the leadership of the institution, this program has recruited a cadre of extraordinary early-career scientists who are making groundbreaking discoveries and who represent the future generations of leaders of the university,” said Dr. Eric Olson, Chairman of Molecular Biology.

The new Endowed Scholars are:

W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research

Dr. Sebastian Winter, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, earned his doctorate in human biology from the Ludwig Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany, then was a postdoctoral fellow and assistant project scientist at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Winter and his mentor, Dr. Andreas Bäumler, co-authored a 2010 Nature study reporting that Salmonella bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning, uses its host’s inflammatory response to grow stronger via anaerobic respiration, basically gaining a survival advantage from the host’s immune response. The Scientist magazine rated that study No. 1 in biology for 2010. In a follow-up study published in Science in 2013 they reported that E. coli, a bacterium known to increase in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, utilizes similar metabolic pathways to bloom during bouts of inflammation.

Southwestern Medical Foundation
Scholar in Biomedical Research

Upon his arrival in July 2014, Dr. Erdal Toprak will become an Assistant Professor in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational and Systems Biology. Dr. Toprak is currently an Assistant Professor at the Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey. He earned his doctorate degree in biophysics and computational biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed postdoctoral work in systems biology at Harvard Medical School. While at Harvard, he was lead author of a study that investigated bacterial antibiotic resistance using a tool his team created called the “morbidostat”: described in a 2012 paper in Nature Genetics as “an automated continuous-culture device” built to follow the evolution of microbial drug resistance in real time. The researchers then used whole genome sequencing to identify resistance-conferring mutations and the temporal order they are accumulated.