Schreiner University (2003-2006; Kerrville, Texas, United States); University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (2006-2012; San Antonio, Texas, United States)
Bachelors of Science in Biology; Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology
Research Fellow at University of Aberdeen researching yeast that cause infections, Student Associate researching HIV/AIDS infection and progression at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Postdoctoral Research Associate and part of the Scientific Development Team for a future ISS microbiology/astrobiology experiment (BIOROCK)
University of Edinburgh – School of Physics and Astronomy
I investigate how some of the smallest forms of life (bacteria) adapt and grow in space.
Astronauts carry trillions of cells that aren’t their own into space. These cells are often harmless bacteria, but it turns out that microgravity, or the free falling weightlessness experienced by astronauts, can cause bacteria to do interesting things. Some of these bacteria form better communities (biofilms) in space than on Earth. This can be quite a problem for space station cleanliness and is a concern for the health of astronauts. However, we study bacteria that perform a very useful task – they mine iron and other elements from rock. We’re trying to see if our bacteria (Sphingomonas desiccabilis, Cupriavidus metallidurans, and Bacillus subtilis) also form better biofilms in space. We think better biofilms might improve bacterial mining. This is all part of an experiment for the International Space Station called BIOROCK. If we are right, we can start looking at using these bacteria for potential mining operations in space (asteroids!) or in life support systems that need element/ion scavenging.
My Typical Day
Drinking coffee, emailing colleagues, experiments in the lab, teaching students
Coffee is the essential start to my day. Depending on how experiments are going, I’ll email our BIOROCK colleagues in Germany, Belgium and Denmark to update them and check on their experiments. I do a lot of experiments in the lab that are getting BIOROCK ready to fly and I do a little teaching on a course with Physics undergraduates.