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USDA Molecular Biologist Wins Research AwardBy Jim Core
February 13, 2002
BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 13, 2002Connie E. Briggs, a molecular biologist, has been named a 2001 Early Career Research Scientist by the Agricultural Research Service, the Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Briggs was selected for her research on microbial identification, sequence-based typing, gene mapping and microbial virulence. She heads the Nucleic Acid Facility at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa. In 1999, she was given the responsibility to develop the gene sequencing research, which has resulted in important contributions to the progress of understanding agricultural problems at the gene level.
Briggs will be honored today at the agencys Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. She and other award winners will receive a plaque, a cash award and additional research funding.
Dr. Briggs is assisting laboratories in tracing the epidemiology of foodborne outbreaks caused by a strain of Salmonella, an important cause of foodborne bacterial illness in the United States, said Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator. This work may also assist in the understanding of the mechanisms involved in bacterial acquisition of multiple genes for antibiotic resistance, a current medical and agricultural problem.
Briggs has optimized methods to support several ARS scientists in their research, including sequence-based analysis of viral, bacterial, fungal, insect and trout genes. Her major focus has been developing sequence-based bacterial identification and typing strategies. One result is identification of nonpathogenic bacteria that may be used to competitively exclude pathogens from fresh vegetables such as bean sprouts.
Currently, Briggs is developing similar techniques to assist in epidemiologic studies of foodborne pathogens including Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes. In other projects, Briggs has supported the characterization of gene sequences that will help researchers identify and choose beneficial insects for protecting crops.
The early career award is given to ARS scientists who have made outstanding scientific contributions while having been with the agency 7 years or less and completed their highest academic degree within the past 10 years. Briggs is the winner for the agencys North Atlantic Area, which includes research locations in Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Briggs is a native of Philadelphia. She received her B.A. in biochemistry from Swarthmore College in 1983 and her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Temple University in 1995. Afterwards, Briggs was a postdoctoral fellow at Thomas Jefferson University.
She has authored four publications since joining ARS in 1997. She received an Outstanding Paper Award from the North Atlantic Area in March 2001