University of Georgia geneticist Jessica Kissinger has been elected a 2020 American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Fellow.
Kissinger is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Genetics, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. She also holds appointments in the Institute of Bioinformatics and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.
“I value belonging to a society that is focused on global health and lessening the burden of tropical infectious diseases, and I am truly honored to be recognized as a Fellow at a time when a focus on public health, science and climate change is so important for all of us,” said Kissinger.
Kissinger’s research focuses on parasite genomics and the biology of genome evolution. Her research group is trying to answer big questions such as how genomes evolve, what is the fate of horizontally transferred genes, which genes are phylogenetically restricted, and how do organellar genomes evolve? The answers to these questions will increase the understanding of parasite biology and help researchers identify potential drug and vaccine targets.
Kissinger’s research mainly focuses on Apicomplexan parasites, a group of parasites that include species that cause malaria, toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis. Projects in her laboratory include the development of tools for data integration, data mining, comparative genomics and assessing the phylogenetic distribution of genes. Her research group oversees integrated genomic database resources, which are part of the Eukaryotic Pathogen, Vector and Host Informatics Resources (VEupathDB.org), funded by the National Institutes of Health. This resource provides the international research community with open access to data for many pathogenic and related organisms.
Kissinger’s research has been funded by the NIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Wellcome Trust, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation. Notably, she is the joint principal investigator of a $38.4 million (if all options are exercised) NIH contract that supports VEupathDB.
Kissinger joined the faculty of UGA in 2001. She was a founding member of the Institute of Bioinformatics at UGA to facilitate cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in bioinformatics/computational biology and its applications. Kissinger has been recognized many times for research and leadership. She has been awarded a Creative Research Medal, Faculty Excellence in Diversity Leadership Award and the Richard F. Reiff Internationalization Award from UGA. In 2014, she was awarded a Special Visiting Professorship from Brazil’s national science research agency, and most recently, she was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to teach and conduct research at Makerere University in Uganda.
“Being elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is recognition of a scientist that has made significant contributions to global public health,” said Dennis Kyle, director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. “Dr. Kissinger richly deserves this award, and I look forward to her continued leadership in tropical medicine research.”