How do archaea regulate responses to extreme stress? How do these responses evolve?
Research in my lab seeks to elucidate how cells make decisions in response to environmental cues. My particular focus is on how networks of molecules interact within free-living microbial cells. These networks govern the decision to grow when conditions are optimal or deploy damage repair systems when faced with stress. I study microbial stress responses in extremophiles of the domainArchaea, which represent extreme examples of microbes surviving damage by multiple stressors. These organisms remain viable on the extreme end of the gradient of environmental stress (e.g. high temperature, saturated salt, nutrient starvation). However, extremophiles also adapt during wide variations in conditions and nutrients and therefore provide a study system for both constant and dynamic stress resistance mechanisms. Because archaea resemble life’s earliest ancestors, they can teach us about the origins of stress response features shared amongst all life. In my recent and future work, I compare across species how networks function to regulate important aspects of cell physiology such as growth and division during stress. Ultimately, I seek to uncover how environmental conditions shape the regulatory network over evolutionary time. I use a combination of quantitative and experimental biology approaches, including computational modeling, functional genomics and molecular microbiology. I work across the disciplines of systems biology, microbial stress response, and archaeal molecular biology. My lab group and I are also actively involved in developing microbiology and bioinformatics workshops for various communities (K-12, teachers, researchers).