The American Society for Microbiology and the Federation of European Microbiological Societies have awarded Clayton Caswell of Christiansburg, Va., a bacteriologist in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, the Mäkelä-Cassell Travel Award for Early Career Scientists.

The award recognizes future leaders in microbiology by giving them an opportunity to present their research on an international stage and experience the best of microbiology. It also supports the exchange of one member from each organization to present a scientific poster at the other society’s main conference.

Caswell, an assistant professor of bacteriology in the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is the first to receive the award and its accompanying $5,000 grant. He will attend the fifth Congress of European Microbiologists in Leipzig, Germany, July 21 through 25.

Caswell’s research focuses on Brucella abortus, a bacterium responsible for reproductive problems in cattle and undulant fever in humans. He hopes to characterize the genetic mechanisms that enable this pathogen to live inside of host cells during chronic infection. Caswell is particularly interested in how small regulatory ribonucleic acids (RNAs) impact the biology of Brucella.

Following his research presentation in Germany, Caswell will visit the University of Namur in Belgium to collaborate with researchers on his current Brucella efforts.

Slawomir Lukomsdki, associate professor of microbiology, immunology, and cell biology at West Virginia University, noted that Caswell has “proved over and over again that he is capable of conducting innovative and novel research, which will allow him to become a leader in his field.”

Caswell joined the veterinary college this year after serving a three-year stint as a postdoctoral scholar at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. He completed a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and entomology at Texas A&M University and a doctoral degree in microbial pathogenesis and immunology at West Virginia University.

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