Dr. Anna Konovalova
Dr. Anna Konovalova

The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at McGovern Medical School welcomed yet another Rising STAR into its fold last year who will be focusing on the biogenesis and maintenance of bacterial cell surfaces.

Dr. Anna Konovalova joins McGovern Medical School from the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where she completed her postdoctoral training with Professor Thomas J. Silhavy.

The UT System Board of Regents created the Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program in 2004 to help UT institutions attract and retain outstanding faculty. Awards, which can be used to purchase equipment and renovate facilities, require institutional support and are available to support the recruitment of tenure-track faculty members at any rank.

Internationally recognized for her research, Konovalova has produced four publications from her graduate work, including two first-author papers in the journal Molecular Micriobiology, co-authored reviews with postdoctoral and graduate school mentors, and published a book chapter as a sole author. Before joining Princeton, she received her Ph.D in 2011 at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, where she worked in the lab of Dr. Lotte Søgaard-Andersen.

At Princeton, Konovalova discovered a novel assembly pathway that threads lipoproteins through the lumen of barrel-shaped proteins in the outer membrane, exposing the lipoproteins on the bacterial cell surface. She determined that a lipoprotein known previously to regulate capsule synthesis is part of a signal transduction stress response pathway and is required to sense damage caused by cationic antimicrobial peptides. Her lab at McGovern Medical School will focus on researching surface-exposed lipoproteins in Gram-negative bacteria and bacterial cell envelope stress responses.

Konovalova’s work has “significant implications” for understanding antibiotic resistance and the design of new antimicrobials and her research will be a positive addition to the UT Center for Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Genomics (CARMiG) and will contribute to the mission of the Cluster for Antimicrobial Resistance at the Gulf Coast Consortia (GCC). Dr. Scott Hultgren, member of the National Academy of Sciences, professor and director of the Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research at Washington University School of Medicine, said Anna’s investigations “will pave the way for better understanding how different Gram-negative pathogens expose lipoprotein virulence factors and antigenic determinants on the cell surface.”

Dr. BethLynn Maxwell, chief health research officer and associate general counsel for the UT System, said in a letter that her recruitment brings “new research strengths while complenting existing microbiology research programs.

“Her superb training and outstanding scholarly activities indicate that she is indeed a rising star who will bring acclaim to our institution,” Maxwell said.