Bacteria, fungi, and SciCats – Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova joins Real Scientists!

Whistler selfie 2This week we’re happy to welcome curator Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova (@GTsodikova), Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Kentucky! Besides professoring, she is also  an associate editor for MedChemComm (RSC journal) since its inception, and a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Biological Chemistry and ACS Infectious Diseases. We asked Sylvie our usual set of questions, and you can read her responses below.

It might sound weird, but I ended up in science because I love art! I am actually writing a blog about it right now. I used to dance ballet, play piano, and paint. I really believed that I was going to be an artist. However, when I got introduced to chemistry in high school, I just fell in love with it. For me creating new molecules to try to cure diseases is not only something that I find useful, I find it to be a form of art. So, am I a scientist or an artist? I am both!

I am a chemist by training. After getting my PhD in chemistry at the University of Alberta, I expanded to molecular biology, enzymology, and microbiology during my postdoc at Harvard Medical School and my independent career. My research focuses on natural products and on infectious diseases. We are currently in a time in history where bacteria and fungi are taking over. We need to act urgently. Not only do I find this field of work of great importance, I also like the friendly atmosphere that researchers have in these fields of research. I find that a lot of people are in it to make a difference no matter who gets the credit (as long as we are making the world a better place).

I decided to work in academia for many reasons. I love teaching, I love research, I love the freedom to be creative, I love to do outreach (I created an outreach program called SciCats “Science Cultivates Academically Talented Students”), and I love traveling. Working in academia lets me do all of that and more.  A lot of my research focuses on bacterial and fungal infections, trying to understand and combat the problem of resistance. We have project on drug-resistant tuberculosis as well as many other pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Another major endeavor in my laboratory consists of engineering enzymes to perform multiple functions with the goal of more easily creating novel “unnatural” natural products as potential therapeutics.  Everyone at more than one time in their life will be infected by bad bacteria and/or fungi. Often people don’t realize that these can be extremely dangerous and deadly. People will get scared of cancer and other diseases, but often they don’t worry about infectious diseases as they don’t necessarily realize how nasty these can be. It is a mission of mine to help people understand the importance of infectious diseases and what they can do to help in the fight against microbial resistance. I sit on many grant review panels, not only for the USA, but for many other countries. I am editor for MedChemComm, a journal from the Royal Society of Chemistry. I am also on the editorial board for The Journal of Biological Chemistry and ACS Infectious Diseases. I travel the world to give talks at different institutions, conferences, and companies. I do a lot of outreach too.

I love dancing, rock climbing (I have to say that I did not do it in a long time because of injuries, but I am restarting this year! Cross fingers that I don’t hurt myself again), and running. I also love reading and playing piano. If it is cold outside, my perfect day off is reading a book. If it is nice outside, definitely exercising.


Please welcome Sylvie to Real Scientists!

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