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Cutting-edge research rewarded

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s University researcher Keith Poole was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) after a 26-year career of peering into petri dishes and analyzing microscopic bacteria. The CSM Murray Award recognizes leading Canadian microbiology researchers for their career contributions and cutting-edge research.

Dr. Poole studies the opportunistic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a problem organism that is notoriously antibiotic-resistant. He examines how and why it can make people living with debilitating illnesses such as cystic fibrosis sick. He is also studying how this bacterium becomes antibiotic resistant.

Keith Poole has spent his career studying bacteria.

“It was definitely an interesting process putting together my resume for submission for the Murray Award,” Dr. Poole says. ”"It gave me a chance to look back on my career. It was definitely an exciting moment when I got the phone call saying I was this year’s awardee.”

It was as a third-year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the 1970s that Dr. Poole discovered his academic calling after taking a microbiology course. After completing his BSc and after working as a technician for a year in a microbiology lab, he undertook a PhD at UBC before heading to Germany as a postdoctoral fellow from 1986 to 1988.

While scouting for a second postdoctoral fellowship back in North America, a faculty position opened up at Queen’s in the then Department of Microbiology and Immunology. After a hastily arranged one-day interview complete with a pizza lunch/dinner – “no time for wining and dining,” he laughs – he returned to Germany to complete his postdoctoral work. Within a day of his return, he was contacted by Queen’s and offered a tenure-track position.

“Working at Queen’s has afforded me the opportunity to indulge my passion for microbiology research and to mentor a host of incredible undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral research trainees,” says Dr. Poole. “It’s been a great ride.”

Dr. Poole is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a past recipient of the Queen’s University Prize for Excellence in Research.  His research is funded by Cystic Fibrosis Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research