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Personal profile

Research interests

I am broadly interested in the complicated interplay between three important factors: commensal microbes, the host immune system, and viral and bacterial pathogens. Previous work has involved characterization of the intestinal commensal microbiota and interrogation of its role in regulation of both enteric viral infection and the host immune system. The coordination of next-generation sequencing efforts with in vivo infections and treatments in mouse models makes the exploration of transkingdom interactions possible. Moving forward, I will be exploring inflammation in the intestine induced by commensal bacteria and by pathogens, and the signaling pathways and transcription factors that regulate it. I will also be identifying the specific commensal bacteria necessary and sufficient to enhance and regulate viral infection in the intestine, and studying viral adaptation strategies to take advantage of commensal microbes and to infect at alternate host sites.

Mentoring

As a principal investigator, I strive to make my laboratory a welcoming and supportive environment for individuals of diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, and inclusive for members with a diversity of professional experience, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientations and ages. With an intentional focus on recruiting talented staff and trainees with varying backgrounds, I have been fortunate to bring together individuals with an array of different perspectives, opinions, and ideas, allowing us as a team to find innovative solutions to complex biological problems. While as a mentor, I am always seeking how to best support and motivate individual trainees, I have come to recognize that careful listening and providing as much empathetic understanding as I can is often the key to helping trainees feel included and encouraged. Serving as a mentor for trainees from underrepresented groups has offered me important opportunities to grow, including assessing my own implicit biases and assessing what I have to offer and where students would benefit from other sources of support or mentorship. I have previously and continue to seek out educational opportunities related to both mentoring and diversity and inclusion considerations, and have participated in formal mentoring workshops in 2019 and 2021, as well as in a four-part course offered by Washington University entitled “Diversity & Inclusion: Awareness, Understanding, Commitment, Action” in 2019.<br>
 Beyond my activities to improve my mentorship of individuals within my laboratory, I also seek to build a diverse and inclusive community at Washington University. As part of the Admissions Committee and now as a Co-Director for the Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis program, I have sought to both recruit a diverse range of students to our program as well as strongly support them during their training, and continue to work with various committees throughout the university to achieve a diverse and inclusive community of trainees. I recognize the importance of focused efforts at the individual, laboratory, and university levels to continue to enhance access to educational opportunities and supportive mentoring for our trainees from underrepresented backgrounds, and will continue to prioritize activities related to this ultimate goal.

Available to Mentor:

  • PhD/MSTP Students

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