My teaching goals are to get students to consider the importance of microbes all around them and to embrace the fun in learning about science. I’m particularly known for doing “interpretive dance” in the classroom in order to demonstrate various concepts. I want students to leave my classes and describe them as informative, challenging, fun, and fair.
My primary focus in the research laboratory is to understand more about disease-causing yeast-like fungi that have a capsule.
The first organism we study, Cryptococcus neoformans, is found throughout the environment but causes a problem only for patients with a suppressed immune system. To cause disease, the fungal cells have to have a sugar coating (capsule). Our research is focused on the fungal cell surface; how cell wall components attach to capsule material, how these cell wall components are regulated, and how they might be interrupted as a method of disease treatment.
My lab is also interested in various Rhodotorula species. Very little is known about these fungi, except that they too can cause secondary infections in patients who are sick and also appear to have a capsule. We want to learn if these fungal organisms bind capsule in a similar manner in which cryptococcal cells bind capsule, determine where these organisms are likely to be found, and if we can establish a useful way in which to classify and categorize various Rhodotorula samples.