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Microbiology professor Rachel Whitaker named a University Scholar

Congratulations to Rachel Whitaker for being chosen as a University Scholar. Whitaker, a professor of microbiology, conducts groundbreaking research on the dynamics of microbes and their viruses and how they evolve in clinical and natural environments.

Begun in 1985, the University Scholars Program recognizes faculty excellence on the three University of Illinois campuses and provides funding to each scholar for each of three years to enhance their academic career. The awards are not made for a specific project or proposal; rather, they represent recognition of the recipient’s excellence and the university’s commitment to fostering outstanding people and their work.

“I am thrilled to receive this award that will allow me to build new systems for our comparative research. I would like to use the funds to support the graduate students and postdocs in my lab who have done amazing research over the last 15 years,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker became a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology in 2004. She is joining a revolution in the microbiology field by bringing in genomics, experimental evolution, and modeling, demonstrating that microbes are subject to ecological and environmental constraints. She works across systems with organisms from archaeal domain (Sulfolobus) to bacteria in human disease (Pseudomonas) and now soil bacteria.

She is also theme leader for the Infection Biology for One Health Theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. One Health is the concept that human, animal and environmental health is all connected by a hidden network of microbes. In 2019 she received a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator Award and in 2020 she led a National Science Foundation Biology Integration Institute called Genomics and Eco-evolution in Multiscale Symbiosis (GEMS) which received $12.5 million for five years.

In 2017, she received the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award, which recognizes investigators with bold ideas and comes with $7.5 million in funding. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and an accomplished teacher and innovator of curriculum.

December 11, 2020 All News