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Seyed Amirhossein Nasseri, a PhD Student in the Withers Lab, Announced as a 2018–2019 Vanier Scholar

By May 24, 2019No Comments

One of the biggest public health challenges we face today is antibiotic resistance. More medicine is available than ever before, but with this advancement comes another issue that is quickly attracting more research attention. A recently-announced winner of a 2018-2019 Vanier Scholarship, Seyed Amirhossein Nasseri is looking into this issue at a molecular level by learning more about the enzymes used by pathogenic bacteria.

“Bacteria routinely use a variety of different enzymes in order to be able to compete for resources and food,” says Seyed, a Ph.D. student in the Withers lab. “These enzymes have been subject to decades of research and much is known about them. This, however, does not mean that we know everything nor that we know enough.”

Seyed’s research involves learning about rare enzymes that pathogenic bacteria produce. “I use functional metagenomics to find out about some of the unusual bacterial enzymes that have not been studied before. This will give us further insight on how some of the pathogenic bacteria break down and consume their food.” He hopes to use this research to develop selective antibiotics for the bacteria that use these rare enzymes. “Since these unique enzymes are only found in bacteria, they also provide a useful way to selectively target the bacteria that employ them.”

Supervised under Prof. Stephen Withers, Seyed said he was attracted to the Withers lab because of the research questions they address and the interesting mix of chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology. The interdisciplinary style meant that he was constantly exposed to new things.

As a 2018-2019 Vanier Scholar, Seyed will continue his studies in the Withers lab where he hopes his research can ultimately help lives. “Hopefully, my research will have a meaningful impact on our understanding of an important threat to global health, which is antibiotic resistance,” says Seyed.

The Government of Canada launched the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program in 2008 to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. Vanier Scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering, and health.