I have served as Director of the Wyoming INBRE Bioinformatics Core since 2014, and work with Core scientists Nic Blouin and Vikram Chhatre to pursue the broad goals of our Core: to enhance Wyoming’s research environment through providing support for bioinformatics research and education throughout the state.
I grew up in Australia, completed graduate training in Germany, and postdoctoral work in Louisiana. I then spent six years working at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), a non-profit private research institute in the Washington DC area. During this time I became interested in genomic analysis of microbes, an interest that continues as a thread through my current research. I’ve been a faculty member in the UW departments of Molecular Biology and Botany since 2007.
Research in my laboratory is conducted on bacteria, and focuses on evolutionary cell biology and ecology. We have a particular interest in the unusual endomembranes of planctomycete bacteria (especially Gemmata obscuriglobus), how these features evolved within the planctomycete lineage, and their functional consequences for the biology of the cell. While most of our recent work has been on the spatial organization of gene expression, we are also interested in other structural and functional aspects of the endomembranes.
Most of our ecology work is conducted within the human gastrointestinal tract, where we are examining the contribution of the gut microbiome to pediatric health and disease. Our primary focus is on Hirschsprung’s disease, a developmental defect of the enteric nervous system that often leads to enterocolitis, a serious inflammatory condition. Our recent work suggests that the primary developmental defect alters early microbial colonization of the gut, which may predispose these patients to enterocolitis. A future goal is to apply an improved understanding of these processes to the development of more effective clinical interventions.