Monday, December 17, 2018

URSP Student Dana Kahle Researches Francisella tularensis

I first decided I wanted a career in research when I was six years old. I had just finished watching a National Geographic special on new uses for snake venom, and thought, “if they can do that, why can’t I cure cancer?” and so began my research career! I have grown tremendously and certainly refined my research interests and goals since then. Currently, my research interests are strongly immunology-based. 

Last semester I had the privilege of joining the van Hoek lab, based on the SciTech campus. My lab focuses heavily on all things Francisella tularensis. My interest in my project began when I learned about how Francisella evades our immune system’s defenses: it produces a protein homolog to signal to our cells to stop a signal cascade that otherwise results in bacterial lysis. What a sneaky bacterium! Not much is known about the pathogenicity processes of Francisella tularensis; as a result, I study its intracellular replication with the hope of elucidating the role some proteins play in these processes. 

On a weekly basis, I spend most of my time doing tissue culture. This involves a lot of general caretaking: changing media and adjusting cell density. Truthfully, this semester has also involved a lot of troubleshooting. Bacteria will grow happily in a variety of conditions, but that growth window is a lot narrower for eukaryotic cells. I am overall grateful for the troubleshooting, though, as tissue culture is one of the principal techniques in any immunological study and I will absolutely use this knowledge in my future work. 

I am incredibly thankful for this semester because it has taught me, above all else, how to be resilient and how to think on my feet. No scientist wants to see her experiments fail, but a critical part of being a scientist is learning how to make those failures into learning experiences. This is a skill that is truly translational and is something I am so thankful to OSCAR and the URSP experience for bestowing upon me.