Dr. Deanna Schmitt receives faculty excellence award for research on antibiotics

This year’s recipient for the Faculty Excellence Award in Professional Activity went to Dr. Deanna Schmitt. Schmitt discovered she won the award in Nov. of 2020 and received her award at a virtual convocation in Jan. of 2021.

Schmitt received her Bachelor of Science in microbiology from Pennsylvania State University in 2005. She then went on to obtain her Ph. D. in immunology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and then her postdoctoral at West Liberty University from 2012 to 2016. It was through her background in microbiology and immunology that she was able to complete her award-winning research.

She won the award through her research on characterizing a novel family of antibiotics that exhibits bacterial activity against select Gram-negative bacteria which they have discovered are known as resazomycins.

“These antibiotics are effective against a variety of human pathogens including the bacteria Francisella tularensis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Helicobacter pylori,” said Schmitt.
According to Schmitt, antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s most urgent public health threats. She then went on to say that each year, at least 2.8 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and more than 35,000 people die in the United States.

“The development of new antibiotics is essential to combat this crisis and prevent the loss of additional lives. Our laboratory hopes to identify and characterize novel antimicrobials like resazomycins for future clinical use,” said Schmitt.

While Schmitt knows that the resazurin-based compounds have antimicrobial activity, she does not know the mechanism in which the compounds will kill bacteria. Schmitt feels that the overall challenge researchers such as herself have faced over the past five year was elucidating the mechanism of action.

Schmitt was nominated for this award by her department chair, Dr. Joseph Horzempa as a result of her commitment to providing research opportunities to undergrads within the biology department. After she was nominated, a committee of West Liberty University faculty reviewed a list of nominees and chose Schmitt as the recipient for the award.

Overall, Schmitt feels honored to have been recognized by West Liberty University for her efforts to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students.

“Studies have shown that one of the main ways to increase retention of undergraduate students in STEM is to engage these individuals in independent research,” said Schmitt.

Fortunately for Schmitt, she has been able to see many of her students go on to medical school as well as various other professional schools and programs.

Congratulations Dr. Schmitt on this wonderful achievement! The Hilltop can’t wait to see where future research takes you!