“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
After graduating from Kalamazoo College with a double major in Biology and East Asian Studies, I joined the Ph.D. program in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where I work with Dr. Jason Kwan to explore uncultured, symbiotic bacteria as a source of novel therapeutic leads. In addition to my passion for the basic research surrounding drug discovery, I am interested in the interface of language and science. As an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College and graduate student in Madison, I have travelled to and lived in China in an effort to improve infrastructure for international scientific communication, collaboration and cultural exchange thanks to a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship and Johns Hopkins University Study Abroad scholarship.
After graduating from UW-Madison I hope to join a company that uses analytical techniques, especially Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, to address issues in drug discovery and diagnostics. Ultimately, I hope to use my experience abroad, fluency in Mandarin and expertise in bioinformatics and drug discovery to lead research efforts as well as mediate scientific and business relationships between branches of an international company.
A Comparative Metagenomics Approach to Marine Natural Product
Drug Discovery in Hippospongia lachne
Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 777 Highland Ave., Madison, Wisconsin 53705, U.S.A., Pharmacy Practice Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 777 Highland Ave., Madison, Wisconsin 53705, U.S.A.
With the increasing availability of deeply sequenced data sets, it has become clear that the biosynthetic potential of uncultured microbes remains largely untapped. Uncultured, symbiotic bacteria associated with marine invertebrates often protect and interact with their hosts through the production of secondary metabolites, which can exhibit a broad spectrum of clinically relevant bioactivities. The microbial consortia of marine sponges (phylum Porifera), for instance, are known or suspected to produce a number of interesting bioactive compounds. To explore this source of biosynthetic talent, we collected ~100 sponge samples from the Florida Keys. Amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA genes by next-generation sequencing revealed differences in sponge microbiome compositions, and evaluation of crude organic extracts by HPLC analysis showed differences in chemical composition between sponges of the same species. Furthermore, biofilm inhibition assays suggested that perturbations in microbiota and variation in the chemical profiles of individual sponges can be associated with the bioactivity of their organic extracts. For two Hippospongia lachne sponge samples where perturbations in the microbiome were associated with a change in chemical composition and bioactivity, we implemented a culture-independent, shotgun metagenomics approach to reconstruct whole bacterial genomes from sponge microbiomes. With this technique, we were able to recover over 100 high quality genome assemblies, many of which diverge significantly from known bacterial lineages, and identify over 300 biosynthetic pathways distributed throughout the microbial community of a single sponge. In conjunction with analytical chemistry techniques as well as targeted culturing and heterologous expression efforts, we hope to develop culture-independent sequencing methods to explore uncultured bacteria and their otherwise inaccessible biosynthetic potential in complex microbial systems.