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Scientific inquiry

"Creativity requires input, and that's what research is. You're gathering material with which to build."

Gene Luen Yang

Our research 

Lactobacillus sp. 

Lactobacillus sp. is a Gram-positive human commensal of the gastrointestinal and vaginal tractWe are interested in defining how Lactobacilli communicate and respond in this environment and what are the effects of this communication for host cells.

Lactobacilli, among other microorganisms, can utilize quorum sensing to mediate responses to environmental conditions or cell signals. We are studying a specific quorum sensing pathway, that mediates responses via the interaction of a small peptide and a transcriptional regulator, termed Rgg. Lactobacillus contains three such Rgg quorum sensing systems. However, there are no known small peptide signals. 

The goals of this project include defining the quorum sensing regulatory networkidentifying environmental and cellular signals involved in these pathways, and discovering the social responses associated with them in vitro and in host cells. 

Streptococcus sp. 

Streptococcus sp. includes many human pathogens some which can cause pneumonia, strep throat, or skin infections. We are studying a variety of small molecules that can influence cell communication or quorum sensing pathways such as the Rgg systems in this organism. We are happy to have collaborations with other departments to explore the structure and activity of specific quorum sensing modulators. 

The goals of this work include identifying small molecule modulators, determine structural activity and quorum sensing pathway specificity. 

Soil phages

Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, have a variety of environments and hosts. Phage have different infection cycles (lytic or template) that can be observed in the laboratory using specific bacterial hosts. Through the SEA-PHAGES program we have isolated over 70 phages from soil. Students have the opportunity to continue to characterize these phages after completion of their initial Phage discovery projects. The goals for this collaborative project are to characterize specific phages in the laboratory and select candidates for genome sequencing and annotation. 

Contact us to inquire about undergraduate semester research.

Undergraduate summer research opportunities available through NSSRP and PUMA-STEM.  





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