Dr. Susan Meschwitz
Research in the Meschwitz lab lies at the interface of organic synthesis, medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. Our ultimate goal is to use chemical tools to solve problems of importance in biology and medicine.
We are interested in organic molecules that have the potential to impact modern medicine. The rise of drug-resistant bacteria that are extremely difficult to treat has emerged as a threat to public health. The failure of existing antibiotics to control infection makes it crucial to find alternatives to currently available drugs. Many pathogenic bacteria rely on a communication system known as quorum sensing to regulate virulence factors necessary for infection of a host. This quorum sensing communication system is controlled by small molecules called auto-inducers, which coordinate collective behaviors and allow the bacteria to attack as a group rather than as a single cell, thus overpowering the host immune system. This reliance of quorum sensing bacteria upon small molecule auto-inducers affords the opportunity to investigate and inhibit quorum sensing systems at the molecular level and provides a potential route to novel antibacterial therapeutics.
Our long-term objective is to discover molecules capable of inhibiting quorum sensing. We are currently exploring two areas for the discovery of these compounds: design and synthesis in our laboratory and isolation from natural products. These molecules are anticipated to serve as valuable tools in the study of quorum sensing and to provide potential new leads in the development of anti-infective agents.
I enjoy working with students, especially science majors, to instill in them a love of organic chemistry and a passion for learning science. I believe that the small class size at Salve Regina makes possible individual attention with each and every student and allows a mentoring relationship with those students who show an interest.
As evidenced by the consistently positive evaluations received from students, my ability to connect with them is well established. In addition, I have established a research program that involves both inter-departmental (biology) and inter-university (URI) collaborations, allowing several Salve Regina students the opportunity to participate in exciting research projects in the area of biologically active natural products. The inter-university collaboration with the natural products group in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island has afforded Salve Regina students the opportunity to spend 10 weeks during the summer conducting research at URI in a graduate level laboratory.
My research projects provide potential for enhanced learning and intellectual development for the students involved. The students are given the opportunity to explore new ideas and make important scientific discoveries in the area of biologically active compounds. The isolation, synthesis, purification and analysis of organic compounds, often on the micro-scale level, and the biological testing of these compounds help students develop accuracy and precision in experimental techniques and provide training for students who intend to pursue graduate work in chemistry, biology, medicine or pharmacology as well as help prepare them for careers in biomedical or other health-related fields.