The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Clay Caswell, an assistant professor of bacteriology, for his studies of the animal and zoonotic pathogen Brucella abortus, which infects approximately 500,000 people worldwide each year.
Caswell’s research in the biomedical sciences and pathobiology department of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine focuses on understanding on how small RNAs regulate virulence factors in Brucella.
Unlike other bacteria, Brucella is able to sneak like a spy into the body’s immune cells, causing abortions and sterility in animals and a debilitating flu-like disease in humans. Brucellosis is often contracted from animals through direct contact or consumption of unpasteurized dairy products, putting veterinary and other animal workers most at risk. There is no vaccine to prevent infection in humans.
Caswell also studies the mechanisms of interactions between bacteria and hosts, and common regulatory pathways in related bacteria.
Caswell has received funding from NIH and the American Heart Association for his work, and has published in journals such as Molecular Microbiology and Journal of Bacteriology.
He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology and the Entomological Society of America. In 2013 he received the Mäkelä-Cassell Travel Award for Early Career Scientists from the American Society for Microbiology and the Federation of European Microbiology Societies.
Caswell joined the veterinary college 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.