In the Spotlight
Professor Patricia Foster
Current Affiliation: Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
Research Area: The molecular mechanisms by which mutations arise spontaneously and as a result of DNA damage, using Escherichia coli as a model system.
"I became interested in environmental microbiology as an undergraduate and spent several years as a field microbiologist for a consulting engineering firm. I continued this interest as a graduate student and postdoc, but eventually was unable to resist the precision and logic of genetics. I see my current interest in the mutagenic consequences of stress responses as a not-quite-direct extension of my earlier interests."
Professor Foster obtained her Ph.D. at Cambridge University studying the responses to heavy metals of the algal populations growing in mine drainage waters in Cornwall. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT working on heavy metal toxicity to a marine diatom. Subsequently, she moved to a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard School of Public Health where she began studying mutagenic mechanisms in Escherichia coli, a subject that has held her interest for 30 years. Dr. Foster was a faculty member in the School of Public Health, Boston University School of Medicine, for 15 years before moving to her current position in the Biology Department at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
Professor Foster’s team is interested in the spontaneous mutations that arise in nondividing cells when exposed to stress, a phenomenon called adaptive mutation. They have found that a novel type of recombination-dependent mutational process gives rise to these adaptive mutations. Currently, they are investigating the molecular mechanism of recombination-dependent mutation and determining its general importance. They are also interested in mutations created when damaged DNA fails to be repaired and, instead, is replicated in its damaged state. A new project is investigating the role of DNA repair and stress responses in determining the rate and types of mutations that accumulate during long-term culture of microorganisms.
Article by Patricia Foster: