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The Dickson Prize in Medicine

The Dickson Prize in Medicine is awarded annually to a leading American investigator who is engaged in innovative, paradigm-shifting biomedical research. Previous winners >

Great Science

2018 Dickson Prize Goes to Bonnie Bassler

Prize is Pitt School of Medicine’s most prestigious annual award

Bonnie Bassler, PhD, is the recipient of the 2018 Dickson Prize in Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Bassler discovered the universal use of chemical communication among bacteria—a process called quorum sensing—and has characterized many previously unknown molecules involved. She discovered that bacteria communicate across species boundaries and that they use specific chemical “words” to detect self, related bacteria, and others. She showed how bacteria tailor their activities depending on whether they are surrounded by friend or foe. Bassler has developed synthetic strategies for manipulating quorum sensing to halt virulence in pathogens. She also showed that quorum sensing can be manipulated to prevent bacteria from adhering to medical devices and to stop bacteria from forming antibiotic-resistant communities called biofilms in medical settings.

Bassler is the Squibb Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society, and the American Philosophical Society. Her honors include the 2012 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award, the 2015 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the 2016 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize.

Dr. Bassler will deliver the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture on Thursday, October 18, as the opening plenary session at Science 2018, the University of Pittsburgh’s annual celebration of science and technology. To learn more, visit

(Photo by Alena Soboleva)

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Annual Showcase

Science 2018

Pitt’s annual science festival highlights the strengths of the University and the region in science, engineering, medicine, and computation, as well as the collective effect of research and advances in these fields on local economic development. Plans for Science 2018, scheduled for October 17–19, are taking shape. To learn more, visit

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Choosing the Winners

Committee Members

View a list of the Pitt faculty members on the Dickson Prize in Medicine Committee. >


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Eyes on the Prize

Winning Medal Performance

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