2009, B.S University of Iowa, Biochemistry
2015, Ph.D. Harvard University, Microbiology and Immunobiology

I study the disease-causing bacteria Clostridioides difficile or C. diff for short. C. diff causes a severe gastrointestinal illness in individuals with a compromised microbiome or in the elderly and is the leading cause of hospital acquired infections in the US. C. diff is an obligate anaerobe, meaning it cannot survive in oxygen. In order to transmit infection between individuals, C. diff relies on a metabolically dormant cell type called an endospore. Endospores have a dehydrated cytosol where the DNA is tightly packaged and multiple protective layers that make them resistant to a lot of environmental stressors. For C. diff to cause disease, endospores need to be ingested, survive passage through the stomach, sense when they have reached the small intestine, and exit their dormant state through a process called germination.

I’m interested in how C. diff endospores sense they have reached the small intestine and trigger the process of germination. We use a combination of genetic and biochemical techniques to look at the role of specific proteins involved in sensing germination signals and triggering the exit from the dormant state.

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