Postdoctoral researcher – Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), Paris, France
Paris was a wonderful city for exploration, including the landmarks, the streets, the wine, the cheese, and of course the scientific research. There I developed an online platform called SynBio4all, which provides an opportunity for citizen scientists to learn about synthetic biology. The online curriculum and learning modules that I developed included written, graphic, and video content, as well as tools to communicate with the citizens actively engaged in synthetic biology research projects. The project we focused on, which was a joint project with the Paris iGEM team, involved modulation of the human skin microbiome. Concurrently, I collaborated with a psychologist to study online and offline active learning of synthetic biology through the platform. Preliminary findings from this research demonstrate that students who learn by being actively involved in research projects significantly improve their analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills when compared to students learning passively. In addition to the research into science education, I had the opportunity to co-manager of the EU funded Citizen Cyberlab project, where I coordinated the efforts of the partners to deliver their online tools and disseminate the results of their investigations in order to enhance learning and creativity for citizen scientists.
Graduate Student – University of California, Riverside
During my Ph.D. research at the University of California, Riverside, I found that the behavior of bacteria is greatly influenced by environmental conditions. Unfortunately, much of policy designed to prevent pathogenic bacteria outbreaks in the environment were based on studying bacteria under ideal laboratory conditions. Thus, I built a model colon, septic tank and groundwater system that represented realistic conditions, in order to better understand how pathogenic bacteria move through various scenarios to contaminate water supplies. The changes in function of the microbial community were monitored genotypically using 454 pyrosequencing and phenotypically using classic colloidal fate and transport techniques (cell hydrophobicity, cell surface charge, cell size, 1-D and 2-D transport, etc.) to understand the structure-function relationship of the microbial communities in these simulated systems. This investigation was recognized with publicity from PBS, Scientific American, CNET, among others, because it demonstrated the need to better replicate the natural habitat of microorganisms in the laboratory to further understand the fate and transport of microorganisms in the natural environment.
Also as part of my PhD research, I received a BARD (Binational Research and Development Fund) fellowship to conduct biofilm research at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Specifically, I used a quart crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) to show that the structure of biofilm formation to a surface depends on the surface and cell physical characteristics.
My first research experience after graduating with a B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, I found that DNA, mRNA, and protein expression of yeast cells oscillate in a robust and predictable manner at the City of Hope Beckman research Institute in Duarte, California.