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Undergraduate Research

To answer health-related questions, I studied communities of bacteria consisting of hundreds of species found in the insides and outsides of humans and animals. I also helped develop online tools for biologists to use to analyze their data. I worked in the bioinformatics laboratory of Qunfeng Dong at University of North Texas.

Multi-Genome Synteny Viewer

When studying genetics it is important to consider sequences that are conserved across species and rearranged on different chromosomes, often having acquired different functions. We developed the multi-Genome Synteny Viewer (mGSV) to allow researchers to visualize these patterns across two or more chromosomes with an interactive display.
PubMed | PubMed Central | BMC Bioinformatics

Culture-Negative Bovine Mastitis

Mastitis (infection of the mammary glands) in cattle is an expensive problem in the dairy industry, and in many cases the pathogen cannot be determined using culture diagnostics. We sequenced bacterial DNA from the milk in these culture-negative cases and found that the most abundant types of bacteria are over- or underrepresented compared to the milk from uninfected quarters of the same cow's udder.
PubMed | PubMed Central | PLOS ONE

Diabetes, Gum Disease, and Bacteria

Diabetes mellitus can increase the risk of periodontitis, which is the inflammation and loss of the soft tissue and bone supporting teeth. By sequencing bacterial DNA from people with diabetes and/or periodontitis, we discovered associations between these conditions and certain types of bacteria, leading to further questions about the role of these species in the progression of periodontitis.
PubMed | PubMed Central | PLOS ONE

Flea and Tick Microbiomes

Fleas and ticks can pick up bacteria from their environment, from the blood of their animal hosts, and from members of their own species, and can then transmit these bacteria to other hosts. We sequenced bacterial DNA extracted from fleas and ticks and found that different species of arthropod harbored unique bacterial species compositions, while environental factors and animal hosts had little effect on the arthropod microbiome.
PubMed | PubMed Central | ISME Journal

Host and Bacterial Diversity

The diversity of an animal community can correlate with the diversity of microbes colonizing those animals, but both positive and negative correlations can be hypothesized. We created communities of up to three species of gerbil in a desert setting and sequenced bacterial DNA from their blood. We found that host and bacterial diversity were positively correlated, and that rare pathogens do not necessarily benefit from low host diversity.
PubMed | PubMed Central | PLOS ONE

Flea Microbiome Diversity

We sampled the microbiomes of female and male fleas and the blood of their gerbil hosts to understand the relationships between bacterial diversity and these different microenvironments. The community structure in male fleas was highly similar to that in rodent blood. We also found that variation in these microbiomes correlated with the season.
PubMed | PubMed Central | ISME Journal