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Forsburg Earns New Fellowship

USC Dornsife’s Susan Forsburg has been honored with a fellowship from the American Academy of Microbiology for her cancer research.

USC Dornsife's Susan Forsburg, who conducts cancer research using fission yeast cells, earns a fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM). Photo by Eric O’Connell.
USC Dornsife's Susan Forsburg, who conducts cancer research using fission yeast cells, earns a fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM). Photo by Eric O’Connell.

Susan Forsburg, professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife, has been elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) for her scientific achievement and outstanding and original contributions to the advancement of microbiology.

Fellows of the AAM are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process. The AAM counts more than 2,400 fellows representing the varied facets of microbiology, including basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry and government service. The criteria for election are scientific excellence, originality, leadership, high ethical standards, and scholarly and creative achievement.

“It’s a terrific honor to be recognized by my fellow microbiologists specifically for our work on fission yeast,” Forsburg said. “Because they are eukaryotic cells [with a nucleus], yeast are often overlooked for their dual identity as microbes and I am proud to represent this system in the AAM.”

Forsburg joined USC Dornsife in 2004 as a senior faculty recruit. Her cancer research focuses on how fission yeast cells maintain genome stability, particularly during DNA replication. Fission yeast, a single-celled organism with chromosomes similar to those in humans, uses the same genes to maintain those chromosomes and has proven to be an important model for cell division. Loss of genome integrity and deregulation of cell division is associated with cancer.

Using a mixture of classical genetics, molecular biology and state-of-the-art imaging, Forsburg investigates how defects in replication contribute to genome instability.

Her research has shown that certain mutated cells known as “checkpoint mutants” keep trying to replicate their DNA even after being exposed to chemotherapy drugs. By studying how mutant cells manage to divide, her lab has shown that simple yeast can model the events in some kinds of cancer cells. Her findings have led to valuable insights on how human cancer cells manage to continue dividing and thereby resist chemotherapy.

Forsburg has earned numerous honors, including being named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, the Association for Women in Science and the USC Center for Excellence in Research. She has also received a USC-Mellon Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

In 2011, she received the Roche Diagnostics Alice C. Evans Award from the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) for her contributions to the advancement of women in science.

The organization lauded Forsburg for her research at USC Dornsife as well as her work on the advisory board of USC’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), which is committed to increasing the success of women in science and engineering. Active nationally in women-in-science issues, Forsburg also runs, a website she started in 1997. The site provides women in biology with online resources ranging from educational opportunities to job openings.

She is an active member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for which she served on the Public Affairs Advisory Committee, and recently rotated off of the American Society for Cell Biology’s Women in Cell Biology Committee. She serves on a National Institutes of Health study section and recently concluded a term on the American Cancer Society’s Council for Extramural Grants.