Selam Abi Woldemeskel


In the Goley lab, we study bacterial growth, development and division using Caulobacter crescentus as a model organism. During my thesis work, I discovered that the conserved transcriptional regulator CdnL regulates transcription of biosynthetic genes required for proliferation. Loss of CdnL alters the transcriptome in a manner that impacts metabolic homeostasis required for growth, morphogenesis and development. Consistent with CdnL’s role in proliferation, nutrient limitation leads to clearance of CdnL, indicating an undiscovered layer of control by which bacteria adapt to stress. These findings shed light on the intricate mechanisms bacteria use to regulate their growth and could inform medically relevant research aimed at developing tools to inhibit bacterial proliferation.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

I chose to attend Johns Hopkins because of the unparalleled training in the biomedical sciences and its highly collaborative and supportive environment. When I was deciding where to go for my graduate education, it was important for me to be in a challenging, impactful and stimulating environment, and my training at Johns Hopkins has provided me with all of that. Lastly, Baltimore’s proximity to D.C., which has the largest Ethiopian population in the country and the best Ethiopian food outside of Ethiopia, was the cherry on top.

What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

When I attended the Young Investigators’ Day events as a second-year student, I was hopeful that I could someday join the ranks of students recognized for their exceptional science. It is a full circle moment for me to receive an award that recognizes my hard work over the past five years, and I am truly honored. This award has motivated me to continue to work hard so that I could someday have my own independent research group at an institution like Johns Hopkins.

What contributed to your project’s success? (Special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)

My project’s success and my growth as a scientist primarily stems from the wonderful mentorship and encouragement I received from my Ph.D. adviser, Erin Goley. Erin has challenged me to rigorously test hypotheses, effectively communicate and think deeply about scientific problems. Her scientific rigor and patience as a mentor has set an example of how to treat people inside and outside the lab. Our mutual trust and respect has given me the freedom to grow (with) my project in unexpected ways as well as the opportunity to establish collaborations with leading experts. In addition to Erin’s guidance, constructive discussions I have had with my labmates and collaborators have also significantly and positively impacted my project. Lastly, my parents’ support and encouragement during rough patches of graduate school have also played an important role in my success.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

My most memorable experience at Hopkins was in the fall of 2017. I was walking from Upper Fells Point to lab, and instead of my usual Spotify playlist I was listening to my younger sister, who had just enrolled in the cellular and molecular medicine program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tell me about her rotation project. It was a very nostalgic moment that took me back to my childhood when we used to walk to school together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and it made me appreciate how far we have both come. Growing up, I had never imagined that we would one day pursue our education in the U.S. and earn our Ph.D.s at one of the most renowned institutions in the world. I am truly grateful for my sister’s friendship and support these past two years, as I realize that not all international students have the privilege of being close to their family during their educational pursuits.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.

I am interested in photography and enjoy taking pictures of cities and landscapes, editing and sharing them with friends on Instagram. It also complements my love of traveling and exploring different cities. Besides that, I also enjoy a range of music genres and regularly attend concerts at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and in the area.