Christine Jacobs-Wagner, Ph.D., the Maxine Singer Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale, has been named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a non-profit medical research organization that is one of the nation’s largest philanthropies.

Jacobs-Wagner is one of the world’s leading authorities on the internal organization of bacteria. Working with the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus, a common inhabitant of freshwater lakes and streams, Jacobs-Wagner and colleagues discovered that the organism contains intermediate filaments, a cytoskeletal structure previously thought to be present only in animal cells.

According to the online Human Intermediate Filament Database, 79 diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease and some forms of cataracts, have been associated with defects in intermediate filaments. Jacobs-Wagner says that C. crescentus offers an excellent model system for understanding these structures.

HHMI’s 298 investigators, selected through rigorous national competitions, include 12 Nobel Prize winners and 122 members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jacobs-Wagner, who received her doctorate at the University of Liège, Belgium, becomes one of 17 scientists at Yale who now hold the prestigious appointment.