I am broadly interested in microbial evolution, ecology, and health. As an undergraduate I was introduced to scientific research in the lab of Dr. Frank Dazzo at Michigan State University (MSU) where I studied biofilm structures from a landscape ecology approach. There I came to appreciate how important the environment is to understanding microbial population and community dynamics. In an effort to frame my research better, I began reading about evolution and I quickly become enamored with both its elegance and beauty. I decided to pursue its study as a graduate student at
As a graduate student at MSU, I am studying the evolution of antibiotic resistance. More specifically, I am looking at the interaction between resistance mutations and their genetic background in the long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) with Escherichia coli. I am testing whether level and cost of resistance differ among populations
Altruism. I have long been interested in how altruism arose. Why do animals, including humans, perform altruistic acts? Although bacteria aren't animals, nor are they conscious in the strictest sense (although they may seem like it when they refuse to go along with your research efforts) they sometimes perform altruistic acts to benefit the group regardless; often at the detriment of the individual doing the altruistic act. Investigating the effects of these altruistic acts on bacterial populations and communities sounds endlessly fascinating to me.
Cheaters. Those undependable individuals in a population who do not produce any of their own public goods, yet free-load off the public goods secreted by their neighbors. If the cheaters are getting benefits from the public good at the cost of other bacteria, how do these cheaters not out compete their kin and hence, drive the population to extinction? What mechanisms have non-cheaters evolved to keep cheaters in check?
Frequency-dependent selection. In frequency-dependent selection, the fitness of a phenotype is dependent upon its frequency relative to other phenotypes within a population. These frequency-dependent relationships are found throughout life, from stickleback fish to bacteria, and are important considerations when studying basic evolutionary phenomena such as selective sweeps of beneficial mutations, for example.