B.S., Harvey Mudd College
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Post-Doc, California Institute of Technology
BIOL 3200 - Microorganisms
BIOL 3820 - Microbial Ecology (jointly with Jeremy Dodsworth
BIOL 4200 - Medical Microbiology
BIOL 5370 - Immunology
BIOL 6020 - Graduate Writing in the Sciences
Research and Teaching Interests
I have mentored a large number of undergraduates and MS candidates, from diverse backgrounds. Many of these students have presented posters at international meetings, and eight of them have been co-authors on peer-reviewed journal articles. Of the students who have worked in my lab as undergraduates, ten have gone on to Ph.D. programs, and five additional students have gone on to post-graduate health professional schools. These students learned how to engage in scientific thought and experimentation, and also how to report that information out to the scientific community. They also learned learned cutting edge microbiological, molecular, and genetic techniques in the course of this work. It is a point of pride for me personally to have students (including undergraduates) as authors on all of my primary publications. Their hard work and development in the laboratory is an important output of my research.
Although much of my work has been “pure” microbiology without a direct impact on human health, I have always been cognizant of the importance of basic science research in human health, and have always endeavored to keep that a focus of my science. Our recent work on Variovorax paradoxus EPS is a case in point. We have identified a surfactant molecule critical to swarming motility, and have identified at least one gene that is necessary for synthesis. We are currently very interested in evaluating the potential for this organism as a probiotic based on results indicating that it has inhibitory or bactericidal activity against Staphylococci. We are simultaneously evaluating it for nematicidal and plant growth promotion activity. This surprisingly versatile and capable organism seems to be remarkable in its ability to succeed in the environment, and our success in this regard is testimony to the importance of basic, hypothesis driven research into environmental organisms as potential sources for novel probiotics or therapeutics. We now have a robust collection of Variovorax isolates that we have sequenced and begun analyzing for antimicrobial activity, quorum quenching, and biofilm formation. Their diverse genome architectures, genotypes, and phenotypes will form the basis for subsequent comparative genomics and physiology projects.
I have recently developed expertise in genome and transcriptome sequencing. I have continued to build expertise in DNA sequencing using 2nd and 3rd generation techniques. These approaches were initially used to study our Variovorax paradoxus isolates, but I have built collaborations with colleagues to study the microbiomes of animals, and plan to continue building on this experience to provide students in our program with an integrative biology experience that includes physiology, genomics, molecular biology, and bioinformatics. This experience will provide excellent preparation as these students prepare to move on to the next phase of their education or profession.