What is your educational background?
Out of high school I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and finished my basic training and infantry specialization. A month after finishing my training, I enrolled at The University of Wisconsin - Madison and received a B.S. in Genetics in December 2002. From there, I started my graduate training in 2003 at Stanford University and completed my Ph.D. in January 2010. I am currently a postdoc in the Judith Berman lab at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, which I began in March 2010.
How did you get involved in the research mentor program?
The opportunity to become an HHMI research mentor was presented to me by one of the program directors. She described the program and suggested it would be a good fit given my own interests. I decided to participate because it provides an opportunity for a student to engage in research for an extended period of time. It also engages the student in having them communicate their science in writing and orally. These skills are incredibly important and are often overlooked when a student simply participates in a research project headed by a postdoc or graduate student. I have also been a mentor for an Amgen Scholar during a summer research project and it was a very positive experience.
What are you researching?
I am investigating the subtelomeres, the region immediately adjacent to chromosome ends, in the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. The regions are highly dynamic with immense amounts of gene turnover and unique regulatory dynamics. Interestingly, genes important for an organism's survival and particular adapted lifestyle are often found in the subtelomeres. This is thought to be a result of the high potential for rapid evolution of these genes that could provide an advantage to the organism. My research is done under the guidance of Judy Berman and I have collaborated with Derek Sullivan's lab at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Lawrence Myers' lab at Dartmouth, Richard Bennett's lab at Brown, and Christina Cuomo's group at The Broad Institute. My overall scientific goal is to contribute to alleviate suffering caused by infectious agents that are a major health concern in underserved populations. C. albicans specifically is important for women's health (yeast infections) AIDS and immunocompromised patients, especially those without access to high quality medical care (HIV community, people of low socioeconomic background, homeless).
What are you plans or goals for the future?
My goals are to establish my own laboratory continuing to study Candida species to identify genes that contribute to their success as pathogens.