Lab Affiliation: Strassmann Queller
"In May 2020, I received my PhD in microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin, where I studied type VI secretion system-mediated interbacterial warfare within the honey bee gut microbiota in the lab of Dr. Nancy Moran.
I joined the Strassmann/Queller lab in June 2020, where I am investigating how the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum interacts with prey and pathogenic bacteria. The predatory behavior of D. discoideum shares many characteristics with phagocytic cells of the mammalian innate immune system. Adaptations that allow bacteria to escape predation by D. discoideum may be an important intermediate step in the evolution of environmental bacteria into pathogens capable of flourishing within mammalian phagocytic cells. Recent work in the Strassmann/Queller lab identified a diverse set of soil bacteria that are capable of resisting predation. Furthermore, some of these bacteria are capable of forming persistent intracellular associations with D. discoideum and altering host behavior. However, little is known about the genetic factors and molecular processes that lead to these outcomes. I intend to examine these interactions from the perspectives of both amoeba and bacteria to identify molecular mechanisms through which bacteria evade predation and manipulate host behavior. In conducting this research, I hope to better understand the evolutionary transition from a predator/prey relationship to a host/pathogen relationship."