University of Maine Assistant Professor of Microbiology Robert Wheeler has received a five-year, $500,000 fellowship from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to study how and why Candida albicans — the most common human fungal pathogen — transforms from an innocuous yeast in the digestive tract of a person with a healthy immune system to a potentially fatal fungus in vital organs of a person whose immune system has been compromised.
“This award marks a new high point in my research career,” said Wheeler, one of 12 scientists nationwide to receive the 2014 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award. After internal competitions at colleges and universities, each institution may nominate two investigators; this year, 144 scientists were put forward.
“This provides substantial funding that we can use to pursue high-risk projects with the potential to change our perspective on how dangerous infections begin,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler’s research on Candida albicans at the University of Maine was funded by the INBRE program from 2009 – 2014.