University of Wisconsin – Superior, 2001
B. S. in Biology
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
PhD in Comparative and Molecular Biosciences, 2009
Thesis: The Role of HIV- and SIV-specific CD8+ T cells in the Establishment of Persistent HIV and SIV Infections
Research Assistant in an HIV vaccine research lab (2003 – 2008)
Research Associate and Instructor at University of Northwestern-St. Paul (since 2008)
I teach Concepts of Biology, Principles of Biology I labs, and Immunology.
The study of the human microbiome is rapidly moving toward the forefront of modern scientific investigation. Because many microbial species only grow in a particular environment, such as in or on a specific part of a human body, it is virtually impossible to identify entire populations of bacteria by merely swabbing the area and allowing the sample to grow in an incubator. Breakthroughs in DNA sequencing techniques have made it possible to identify entire populations of microbes in a given sample in a matter of minutes, without the need to try to grow them in a laboratory setting.
Numerous studies have found links between an individual’s gut microbiome and various aspects of that person’s physical health. Correlations have been found that links the gut microbiome to eye health, bone health, immunological health, susceptibility to diabetes and obesity, and a myriad of other aspects surrounding individual well-being. The bidirectional signaling between the bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract and the brain is vital for maintaining physiological homeostasis, but research now suggests that the activity of the gut-brain axis affects the mental state of an individual as well.
A thorough investigation of the relevant literature reveals a scarcity of information about anything other than the gut microbiome and its relationship to mental health. The vast majority of studies thus far have focused on these links. Because achieving a good state of mental health is vital to a person’s overall well-being, and because studies have thus far only focused on the gut-brain axis, our research group is interested in investigating the possible links between an individual’s skin microbiome and that person’s mental health.
We hope that determining a link between a person’s microbiome and state of mental health will someday pave the way to earlier, less invasive diagnostic techniques for certain forms of mental illness. Further, it is not implausible to anticipate a future in which the treatment for mental disorders can be specifically tailored to an individual’s needs, based on the unique relationship between that individual’s microbiome and state of mental health.
Music: I am the lead singer in a classic rock band! I also play guitar and piano.
Photography: I am the owner of Defiant Beauty Photography in St. Paul. I specialize in fine art photography and portraits, particularly senior graduation portraits.
Writing: I write poetry, essays, songs, and have recently completed a memoir that I will be publishing soon.
Animals: I love every animal in the world! I am also a professional pet sitter.