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Scholar of the Week

Rebecca Wattam

The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Rebecca Wattam, a senior bioscientist and computational biologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, for using comparative genomics to help scientists find ways to fight bad bacteria.

Trained as a parasitologist and medical entomologist, Wattam teases apart the data that separate harmful from helpful bacteria using the Pathosystems Resource Integration Center (PATRIC).

PATRIC is a Web-based portal that provides bacterial infectious disease researchers with analysis tools and comparative data.

Wattam teaches researchers and clinicians how to use the tool to understand how genomics and genomics resources can reveal better drug targets and ultimately create more effective therapies.

Recently, she traveled to Kwazulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV in Durban, South Africa, to teach medical scientists to use the tool against drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).

More recently, Wattam was the senior author on a study in the journal “3 Biotech,” proposing a protocol to compare metabolic models on closely related genomes using 15 strains of genus Brucella, which contains pathogens harmful to both humans and livestock.

The PATRIC Project is one of five Bioinformatics Resource Centers for Infectious Diseases program funded in whole or in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health and Human Services.

It has been in development over the last nine years and was instrumental in aiding scientists in understanding the European E. coli outbreak in 2011.

Wattam received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at the University of New Mexico and a joint doctoral degree in entomology and veterinary science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.




Nominate a Scholar of the Week

The goals of the Scholar of the Week are to recognize individuals while also telling people about research and scholarly activities at the university.

Recognition is based on research and/or scholarship.

Please nominate individuals — not teams, groups, or more than one person.

Please provide a sentence describing the research, scholarship, or creative work in non-technical, generally accessible language. A second sentence with an example or application is helpful.

  • Send nominations to: Beth Tranter, Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President for Research.