By Emily Stembridge
Jessica Scoffield, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is the first recipient of a new American Association for Dental Research fellowship.
The goal of the fellowship is to support young academic researchers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in order to increase representation in science and academia. The $10,000 fellowship was awarded to Scoffield on June 19 at the opening ceremonies of the joint meeting of the International, American and Canadian Associations for Dental Research, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Scoffield is a UAB microbiologist who has studied the role of commensal bacteria in polymicrobial lung and oral infections. Her research has led to the discovery of novel antimicrobial mechanisms used by commensal bacteria that inhibit pathogenic bacteria.
“It is a special honor to be awarded the American Association for Dental Research and Procter & Gamble Underrepresented Faculty Research Fellowship. It is an opportunity of a lifetime to lead my own research program,” Scoffield explained. “I am thrilled to know that the AADR and Procter & Gamble value and support my research and are committed to increasing the representation of underrepresented faculty in academia. For this, I am truly grateful.”
With this fellowship, Scoffield hopes to advance her research on oral polymicrobial infections and provide research training to underrepresented students. One of her goals is to pay it forward by inspiring trainees with her journey, and encouraging them to improve the future of health care by pursuing an academic research career.
Scoffield, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, realized her passion for biomedical research while completing her undergraduate degree at Tuskegee University. Initially, she was assisting with developing plant growth systems for space missions, and eventually she started working with a team developing edible vaccines using plants.
“The research was exciting for me, and I was motivated by the fact that what we were doing would someday help a lot of people,” Scoffield said. “These experiences set me up for success later on at UAB.”