Space Life Sciences Lab, Merritt Island, FL
University of Florida Dept. of Microbiology and Cell Science Foster Lab
I am currently working on my Ph.D research at the Space Life Sciences Lab under Dr. Jamie Foster. I received my B.S in Microbiology from Ohio Wesleyan University in May of 2016.
My current work involves elucidating how a modeled microgravity environment affects programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in the epithelial tissues of juvenile Euprymna scolopes that are colonized by Vibrio fischeri. While apoptosis is typically thought of as an innate immune response to infection, it is also implicated heavily in physiological development and the maintenance of healthy tissue. In the squid, apoptosis produces a developmental change in the juvenile light organ where the V. fischeri bacteria live and this process is ultimately induced by colonization - the process in which the V. fischeri bacteria establish themselves as inhabitants of the squid. Previous work from our lab has shown that apoptosis is enhanced in microgravity. The scope of my current work is to determine why and how, from both the perspective of the bacterial symbiont and the animal host.
With NanoString I plan to look at how apoptosis-related genes are differentially expressed for uncolonized and colonized squid in gravity versus microgravity. Combined with bacterial studies, the data generated from Nanostring will help me tease out the extent and mechanism(s) by which each respective symbiotic constituent contributes to the enhanced apoptosis that has been observed in a space-like environment.
Outside of work I enjoy going on runs, kayaking around 1000 Islands, and volunteering at the local elementary school and health clinic. I am also active in the Skype a Scientist program as well as a mentoring pilot program for undergrad women interested in STEM called the Pegasus Express, which is sponsored by Moonshot Mentoring and the Florida Space Grant Consortium.