Nushaba Rashid, a third-year chemical engineering major at the University of Virginia School of Engineering, has received a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award for her project, “Does chemotaxis influence the virulence of E. coli bacteria in the gut?” Rashid is a research assistant in Professor Roseanne Ford’s lab. Ford is her faculty advisor on the project.

According to a March 7, 2019 story on this year’s Harrison recipients in UVA Today, Rashid’s research examines “the movement of bacteria in response to an acid gradient mimicking the stomach environment. Predicting this response will be pivotal in future research for treating certain illnesses, such as cholera, that are prevalent around the world.”

Rashid, a native of Bangladesh, said she was motivated to become involved in this kind of research while volunteering at a hospital in her home country.

“There are so many different debilitating sicknesses that exist globally that are heavily under-investigated due to lack of awareness,” she said. “With my research, I hope to make an impact by understanding more about the process by which bacteria can penetrate organs in the stomach. We want to establish a solid foundation for future research, so that we can be one step closer to developing effective treatment methods.”

Rashid often talks of her desire to improve living conditions for Bangladesh’s poorest regions, said Ford, who serves on the steering committee for UVA’s Global Infectious Diseases Institute. Despite big strides in some parts of the country, deaths and illness due to diarrhea remains a problem in others.

Meanwhile, Ford had been looking to expand her lab’s expertise in bacterial chemotaxis to applications involving pathogenesis of disease. Chemotaxis refers to the movement of cells or organisms in response to chemicals in their environment.

”Motility — or the capacity to move — is often cited as a factor in the virulence of bacterial pathogens,” Ford said. “Nushaba developed a proposal to study bacterial transport through the mucosal layer of the intestine in response to pH gradients. I am very excited about her project and the opportunity mentor her and supervise the research.”

Nushaba Rashid portrait