Dr. Barbara Iglewski’s landmark discovery that pathogenic bacteria communicate with each other via a system known as “quorum sensing” showed how this system is a global regulator of virulence in humans. Her work served as the foundation for an entire field of study into how this system works across the various types of bacteria. Several drugs that interrupt the bacterial communication process, thereby preventing infections, have been developed based on her work.
Dr. Iglewski pursued her scientific career as a result of accompanying her country physician father on house calls, answering the phone at his office, and playing with his microscopes. She became the first woman to lead a department at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, chairing the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University from 1986 to 2009.
Her work on the bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa, its production, modes of action and regulation and, specifically, how it damages the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis, has had an enormous positive impact nationally and globally. She is considered the leader in this field of research, particularly as it relates to implications for, and applications to, many different genera and species. In addition, she has studied biofilms made by pathogenic bacteria that cause intractable problems both in the body (lungs, oral cavity, and bladder) and in clinical pipes (catheters and intravenous lines) and industrial pipes (any pipe carrying water or fluids in factories).
She holds seven patents, has published more than 180 papers and book chapters and has received many awards and honors, including from the National Institutes of Health and the American Society for Microbiology. Known as a mentor and role model, she has received numerous awards for her encouragement and development of young women in science. Dr. Iglewski has been instrumental in helping women achieve placement in editorial positions at various scientific journals as part of her goal to increase the number of women on scientific editorial boards.