I have been fascinated by microorganisms since I got my first microscope as a child. After
graduating from Benedictine College in 2017 with a BA in Biology, I started at Iowa State University and
eventually joined the lab of Dr. Stephan Schmitz-Esser. My dissertation research has focused on the
foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes and its propensity to survive in food processing
environments (FPEs). In spite of numerous methods used to limit bacterial contamination, L.
monocytogenes readily grows in FPEs leading to deadly outbreaks. After employing a transcriptomics
approach to identify genes involved in L. monocytogenes lactic acid resistance, I have been utilizing a
molecular cloning approach to generate in-frame deletions of two of these genes of interest. I plan to
use these deletion mutants to characterize these genes and their role in L. monocytogenes lactic acid
resistance. This research will help shed light on how L. monocytogenes survives and grows in FPEs,
potentially leading to the development of new methods to reduce L. monocytogenes contamination. In
addition to researching L. monocytogenes, I am also involved in a collaboration studying the tardigrade
microbiome. We are particularly interested to see if tardigrades isolated in the wild harbor plant
pathogens and might therefore act as disease vectors. After completing my graduate work, I hope to
become a professor at a small, liberal arts institution where I can share my love of microbiology with
others and provide research opportunities for undergraduate students.