Shailaja Kunda, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, has been named a recipient of the Faculty for the Future award for the 2012-2013 academic year. This year, there were 63 fellowships awarded to women from 28 countries around the world.
Kunda works in Patricia Clark’s lab where they study how proteins fold into three dimensional, native structures. Autotransporters are bacterial proteins that can be transported outside the bacterial membranes by an energy independent mechanism. These proteins are usually virulence factors and causative agents of bacterial diseases like whooping cough. The lab's initial results led to the hypothesis that the transport of these virulence factors can be attributed to the folding initiated at one end of the protein. Kunda’s research focuses on determining the mechanistic details of this transport system using crystallography and biophysical techniques.
The Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future fellowships are awarded to women in science and engineering from developing and emerging countries, and provide funding for advanced graduate study at top universities abroad. The long-term goal of the Faculty for the Future program is to generate conditions that result in more young women pursuing scientific disciplines. Grant recipients are therefore selected as much for their leadership capabilities as their scientific talents and are expected to return to their home countries to continue their academic careers and inspire other young women. Launched by the Schlumberger Foundation in 2004, Faculty for the Future has grown to become a community of 257 women from 62 countries.