Southerland wins second place poster at Postdoctoral Research Symposium

Her research involves the role of antimicrobial compounds in fighting infections that occur in cystic fibrosis patients
October 20, 2020

The Texas A&M Division of Research, with support from groups across the university, held its 4th Annual Texas A&M Postdoctoral Research Symposium on Sept. 23 via Zoom.

Marie Southerland, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine, won second place poster award for her work, entitled “Antimicrobial activity and novel formulation of silver containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”

Each year, the symposium provides postdoctoral trainees the opportunity to present their research to a wider university audience while developing their presentation skills, networking with peers and faculty members and winning prizes. This year, due to the pandemic, the event was held virtually.

The symposium began with opening remarks from Amy Waer, MD, FACS, interim dean of the College of Medicine, Mark Barteau, PhD, vice president for research and Robert Burghardt, PhD, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and director of the Image Analysis Laboratory. Later on, there were flash talks, poster presentations, a keynote address and the awards ceremony.

Southerland, who works in the lab of Carolyn Cannon, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, presented her research relating to antimicrobial compounds’ role in combating infections that often occur in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.

“I was glad that my video was off when I found out I won second place because I had felt like a cartoon character because my jaw just literally dropped,” Southerland said. “I was like ‘wait what, I’m pretty sure that’s my name, oh my gosh they just said my name,’ and it was just really nice because honestly, with everything going on, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to really be in front of a group of people and present the work that I’ve been doing in Dr. Cannon’s lab.”

However, Cannon had a different reaction when Southerland’s name was announced for second place.

“I knew that Marie had intrigued the judges with her presentation from the flurry of questions that followed her talk,” Cannon said. “The award came as no surprise to me. Marie gave a great talk. The award is well deserved.”

Southerland began studying disease models relating to cystic fibrosis as an undergraduate, before synthesizing novel molecules to treat cancer as a graduate student. She has now returned to the study of cystic fibrosis, specifically the treatment of chronic lung infections with resistant bacteria since she joined Cannon’s lab in July of last year. Additionally, one of her silver containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also treat cancer.

“I think cystic fibrosis is a very interesting disease to study because it’s so different and unique and presents many challenges for people,” Southerland said. “There are a lot of therapies now that can really help a lot for patients who have cystic fibrosis, but even so, these infections can be really terrible and a lot of the different strains that we work with of bacteria come directly from cystic fibrosis patients. It’s really eye-opening to work with these strains and see how differently they all respond to the same treatments and it’s really difficult to see that because it’s clear that these people really needed new therapies.”

The symposium receives support from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the College of Medicine, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and all postdoctoral associations at Texas A&M, including the Texas A&M Health Science Center Postdoctoral Association, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Postdoctoral Association and the Texas A&M University Postdoctoral Association.

— Gracie Blackwell

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