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Positive Interactions

By Tim Dean

Collaborative. Generous. Insightful. Patient. These are some of the words colleagues use to describe Deborah Hogan, PhD, one of the most successful and highly respected scientists within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine.

Such attributes make her "the kind of person that everybody wants to work with," says Dean Madden, PhD, a professor of biochemistry at Geisel. "Deb is outstanding on all fronts. Not only is she running a thriving research group that is one of the highlights of the community here, she's also one of our most dedicated and successful mentors at all levels, ranging from undergraduates to junior faculty colleagues."

Fittingly, Hogan recently received the 2016 Dr. Thomas Maciag COBRE (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence) Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—a national award given to an individual who "exemplifies research excellence and a commitment to mentoring," and who has become an independent researcher through a COBRE program.

"I was very honored," she says. "For me, it's a reflection of the fact that there's a great mentoring culture at Dartmouth, thanks to people like Dr. Bruce Stanton who have established COBRE programs here, and that I'm surrounded by wonderful colleagues who are excellent scientists and a pleasure to mentor."

Funded by the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, COBRE programs are designed to help academic institutions—especially those in small or rural states—build centers of excellence in biomedical research and advance the work of junior faculty investigators who will assume mentoring and leadership roles in the future.

We focus on intercellular microbial interactions, and our goal is to use what we learn to improve our ability to treat infectious diseases.

Hogan joined the Dartmouth Lung Biology COBRE as a junior project leader in 2007, under the direction of Stanton (the principal investigator). While receiving COBRE support for her research, she published over 20 papers, revealing new metabolic pathways that control the biology of chronic bacterial and bacterial-fungal interactions and hold promise for treating airway infections in cystic fibrosis (CF). Through this work, she was able to secure substantial grant funding from the CF Foundation and NIH as an independent researcher.

Today, the Hogan Lab is a recognized leader in studying microbial interactions in mixed species chronic infections. "We focus on intercellular microbial interactions, and our goal is to use what we learn to improve our ability to treat infectious diseases," says Hogan, who has now published more than 60 research publications and received over $2.5 million in grant funding over the past five years.

To this end, she works closely with Dartmouth-Hitchcock pulmonologist Alix Ashare, MD, PhD, with whom she co-directs the Lung Biology COBRE Translational Research Core, which provides clinical samples to investigators across Dartmouth. "Deb is a great research partner—she's very objective, she understands the most important questions to be asked, and she interprets the data very realistically," says Ashare.

"I think what really distinguishes Deb as a scientist is that she has focused not on one microbial species, but on the interactions between different microbial species," says William Green, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Geisel. "It's an area of research that was underappreciated initially, but is becoming increasingly important to better understanding the complex role that these organisms play in certain diseases."

"One of the things I like about microbiology is it can take you in a lot of different directions," says Hogan, who also directed and taught the Molecular Mycology Summer Course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Labs for five years, and serves as an associate editor for the journal PLoS Pathogens.

"I love the fact that at Dartmouth, I get to combine the research with training graduate students, post-docs and other research staff in my lab, and that I get to interact with so many excellent colleagues across the institution," she says. "It makes the science stronger and it makes it really fun."

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