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Maria Esteve-Gassent

UTSA Spotlight: UTSA post doctoral researcher trains at microbiology institute

By Kris Rodriguez
Public Affairs Specialist

(Nov. 27, 2007)--Maria D. Esteve-Gassent, a post-doctoral researcher in UTSA's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID), is one of 10 post-docs selected from U.S. universities to participate in the Kadner Institute in Preparation for Careers in Microbiology sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

The Kadner Institute offers hands-on training to educate participants in grant writing, scientific presentations, and scientific communication and ethics. Participants are also required to prepare a 10-page preliminary grant proposal, a 12-minute scientific presentation and a curriculum vitae to be critiqued and evaluated by faculty and peer scientists in the field of microbiology and infectious diseases.

"It was a great experience to meet other people and continue communicating with post-doctoral students representing some of the top universities around the country" said Esteve-Gassent. "I learned a lot and was able to bring some of these new techniques into our laboratory."

As a member of the STCEID research team, Esteve-Gassent works in the laboratory of Janakiram Seshu, UTSA assistant professor of biology located on the third floor of the Biotechnology, Sciences and Enginering Building on the 1604 Campus.

Their research focuses on Lyme disease, which effects approximately 23,000 people annually with serious consequences such as arthritis, carditis or other neurological conditions if left untreated. Found primarily in northeastern states, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is usually found in several vertebrates and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks.

"There is no vaccine for it, so if you detect it in the early stages you can treat it with antibiotics," said Esteve-Gassent. "If it is not detected, that's when the serious complications set in."

A native of Spain, Esteve-Gassent completed her undergraduate degree in her home country and continued her research at the University of Valencia in developing vaccines to protect commercial fisheries against economically debilitating fish diseases.

With her doctoral degree in hand, she accepted a post-doctoral position in Seshu's laboratory and a new challenge -- to establish strategies to prevent Lyme disease.

"Maria has been an extremely helpful member of our group and we would not be where we are without her contribution," said Seshu. "She's a resource that many in the center use and is readily available to share her expertise and help other people."

Esteve-Gassent was one of two Texans chosen to participate in the weeklong post-doctoral and graduate student training program held at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her training was timely, enabling her to submit a proposal to the National Institutes of Health in the last submission cycle.

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