CHAMPAIGN, Ill., — Dr. Irene MacAllister, a research chemist with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), has been awarded the Czech Republic’s University of Defence Medal honoring her “for the immense contribution she has made to the research effort in protection against high-risk biological agents.” She received the award upon recent completion of her assignment with the U.S. Army Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program (ESEP) to the Czech Republic.
“I am deeply honored to receive the University of Defence Medal,” said MacAllister. “To be recognized for work that was exciting, stimulating and professionally gratifying is truly humbling, especially in light of the achievements of those that have received the award before me. For me, this award is a symbol of what can be achieved through support and collaboration even in the face of unanticipated challenges.”
MacAllister deployed in February 2020, just shortly before the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic wave, to impart her scientific know-how to her Czech colleagues and strengthen the scientific team of the University of Defence, Faculty of Military Health Sciences, Department of Molecular Pathology and Biology in Hradec Králové.
“It was an incredible honor to represent the nation, the Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said MacAllister. “Throughout the assignment, I was privileged to work with many outstanding individuals.”
Her research centered on pathogenic microorganisms and biological agents that have the potential for misuse by military and terrorist organizations. She was involved in scientific projects that focused primarily on the study of Francisella tularensis (F. tularensis), a highly infectious bacterium. Her specific research investigated the intracellular life of F. tularensis in relation to the host, the protection of the host against this bacterium and the study of related biological interactions.
“Thanks to a number of methods — including molecular biological methods, the study of post-translational modifications, liquid chromatography combined with mass spectrometry or in vivo studies in an animal model — Dr. MacAllister has succeeded in obtaining purified protein with a purity more than 97 %, which allows further research focusing primarily on research and development of protein subunit vaccines,” said Dr. Klára Kubelková, a researcher with the University of Defence, Department of Molecular Pathology and Biology.
“The success of the assignment was made possible by the tremendous support I received from my Czech colleagues, the support of the U.S. Embassy in Prague as well as the support of the ERDC,” said MacAllister. “Everyone went above and beyond, especially since many of the challenges were unexpected due to the pandemic. I am so truly grateful for all the generosity and kindness I received. The support and friendship have meant more to me than I could ever express in words.”
The ESEP is a professional development exchange program that provides career broadening work assignments for U.S. military and government defense personnel in foreign defense establishments. The goal is to increase collaboration and leverage military research, development and acquisition work of our allies.
Managed by the Armaments Cooperation Directorate within the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Defense Exports and Cooperation, ESEP enables U.S. Army scientists and engineers to work in the defense research and development establishments of our allies and international partners to advance the Army’s bilateral armaments cooperation efforts.
ERDC's ESEP program is coordinated through the International Research Office arm of the Strategic Integration Office. The Strategic Integration Office coordinates efforts across the ERDC to create enterprise-level opportunities that are sustainable and long-term while leading the development of enterprise-level strategy, creating opportunities to expand strategic partnerships and shaping strategic communications. The International Research Office supports and shapes initiatives with international partners.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. MacAllister and her accomplishments,” said Dr. Paige Buchanan, director of the Strategic Integration Office. “The success of her assignment presents the opportunity for us to build a unique international relationship with the Czech Republic and opens the door for more mutual collaboration in the future.”