Excellence Award 2014 | Eva Top
Excellence in Research or Creative Activity Award 2014
Dr. Eva Top is professor of biology in the College of Science and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST) at the University of Idaho. She earned her B.S./M.S. degree in bioengineering and her Ph.D. degree in agricultural sciences at Belgium’s Ghent University. She joined UI in 2001.
Dr. Top’s acclaim comes from her research on the ecology and evolution of multi-drug resistance plasmids. Plasmids are mobile genetic elements that are found in most bacteria, where they replicate separately from the chromosome and often confer resistance to multiple antibiotics.
Because plasmids readily transfer between different bacteria, they play a major role in the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens. This widespread resistance threatens our fight against infectious diseases and has caused a major human health crisis. In the United States alone, infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria kill around 23,000 people annually. To limit the spread of drug resistance among human pathogens, we urgently need to better understand the diversity and evolutionary history of resistance plasmids and the mechanisms by which they evolve to successfully persist in bacterial populations. Dr. Top’s research in this area is currently funded by the NIH, the DOD, the USDA, and the NSF Science and Technology Center BEACON.
Her colleagues consider Dr. Top to be among the world’s best researchers engaged in this field. They applaud her innovative approaches that have allowed her to monitor plasmid transfer in real time and to work with mathematicians to devise computational tools to quantify and predict plasmid dynamics. Her colleagues applaud her for helping to bring plasmid biology to the attention of the larger fields of computational and evolutionary biology.
Not only is Dr. Top a leader in research, she is a leader of researchers. She is valued as a colleague who graciously asks probing questions, facilitates collaboration across departments and colleges, and is frequently sought after as a speaker and reviewer of grants and manuscripts. In addition to the advances she has made in the plasmid field, Dr. Top has mentored a significant number of young scientists in her lab, including many undergraduates; has been prolific as a writer with almost 100 publications; and has served the scientific community. She serves as secretary of the International Society for Plasmid Biology, is a permanent member of the Genetic Variation and Evolution Study Section at the National Institutes of Health, and is the director of UI’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biology graduate degree program. Dr. Top is a fine example of why the University of Idaho is a leader in research.