USDA Molecular Biologist Wins Research Award

USDAMolecular Biologist Wins Research Award

By Jim Core
February 13, 2002


BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 13, 2002-Connie E. Briggs, a molecularbiologist, has been named a 2001 Early Career Research Scientist by theAgricultural Research Service, the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientificresearch agency.


Briggs was selected for her research on microbial identification,sequence-based typing, gene mapping and microbial virulence. She heads theNucleic Acid Facility at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor,Pa. In 1999, she was given the responsibility to develop the gene sequencingresearch, which has resulted in important contributions to the progress ofunderstanding agricultural problems at the gene level.


Briggs will be honored today at the agency’s Henry A.Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. She and other award winnerswill receive a plaque, a cash award and additional research funding.


“Dr. Briggs is assisting laboratories in tracing the epidemiologyof foodborne outbreaks caused by a strain of Salmonella, an importantcause of foodborne bacterial illness in the United States,” said Edward B.Knipling, ARS acting administrator. “This work may also assist in theunderstanding of the mechanisms involved in bacterial acquisition of multiplegenes for antibiotic resistance, a current medical and agricultural problem.”


Briggs has optimized methods to support several ARS scientists intheir research, including sequence-based analysis of viral, bacterial, fungal,insect and trout genes. Her major focus has been developing sequence-basedbacterial 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 inepidemiologic studies of foodborne pathogens including Escherichia coliand Listeria monocytogenes. In other projects, Briggs has supported thecharacterization of gene sequences that will help researchers identify andchoose beneficial insects for protecting crops.


The “early career” award is given to ARS scientists who havemade outstanding scientific contributions while having been with the agency 7years or less and completed their highest academic degree within the past 10years.Briggs is the winner for the agency’s North Atlantic Area, which includesresearch locations in Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, NewYork, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.


Briggs is a native of Philadelphia. She received her B.A. inbiochemistry from Swarthmore College in 1983 and her Ph.D. in microbiology andimmunology from Temple University in 1995. Afterwards, Briggs was a postdoctoralfellow at Thomas Jefferson University.


She has authored four publications since joining ARS in 1997. Shereceived an Outstanding Paper Award from the North Atlantic Area in March 2001.