Dr. DiSalvo’s Student Awarded ASM Fellowship

Take a stroll into Dr. DiSalvo’s lab and she will likely tell you about the various social interactions and behaviors of Dictyostelium discoideum, a species of soil-dwelling amoebae.

What makes them so special? Dr. DiSalvo, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, breaks it down for us, but what she has to say next might have you questioning whether you are reading an opening chapter in a sci-fi novel…

“Dicty, as we call them, live pretty solitary lives, but when they run out of food, they begin socializing with each other and they merge into a slug,” commented DiSalvo. This is not just any slug though, the slug, better known as a grex, will mature into a fruiting body with a stalk, supporting reproductive spore cells. When environmental conditions become favorable again, the spores germinate into amoeba to start the whole process over again.

DiSalvo has been studying host-microbe interactions for over 6 years. Dicty serves as a model host system for her to study the effects of bacterial infections. “These infections are strange–in some cases they are neutral, in others, detrimental, but they can also be beneficial.” DiSalvo has been studying Dicty and now undergraduate student, Colleen Wagner has stepped into the lab to initiate her own study. “Colleen was recruited by my previous master’s student Jacob Miller–he has endpoints from his research and from those, she has a starting point that she can begin her own research from,” said DiSalvo.

Wagner was recently awarded a fellowship for $4,000 through the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The fellowship provides students an opportunity to conduct research for ten weeks during the summer and attend ASM Microbe to present their research results. Wagner will use techniques like red fluorescence labeling to study early stage infection in the Dicty host system in DiSalvo’s Lab. “The stipend will give Colleen the flexibility to do a lot of work in the lab and enable her to develop as an independent researcher” (DiSalvo).

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