I am interested in genes, chromosomes, and genomes: how they contribute to the traits of an organism, how they are transmitted during replication or cell division, and how they can change from generation to generation. My research makes use of viruses that infect bacteria, and my students and I use molecular biology and bioinformatics methods to make discoveries about the diversity of viruses in the world, how the virus genes work, and how the viruses may evolve.
I am fascinated by the role that DNA plays in living things: how genes contribute to the traits of an organism, how genes are regulated, and how genes and genomes can change from generation to generation. To study genes and genomes, my research makes use of a group of newly-discovered viruses that infect bacteria.
We have been pursuing three kinds of projects:
1. The first project is in the structural and evolutionary analysis of bacteriophage genomes. A number of interesting phages have been discovered at Gonzaga that need to be analyzed and published so that the scientific community can make use of them. I am recruiting students to analyze and compare phage genomes using bioinformatics methods. This project has the potential for lead authorship of a manuscript for publication. Later molecular biology bench work may be possible for students particularly interested in pursuing their findings.
2. If bacteriophages are ever going to be effectively used as anti-bacterial therapies, we will need to know how each phage gene functions and how it is regulated so the phage might be modified to behave as we want. Genes that help the phage get past bacterial defense systems--or alternatively, genes that help the phage become dormant inside the bacterial cell without killing it--may be important. We are using molecular genetic methods to identify and test gene functions related to phage-dependent immunity and defense.
3. DNA sequencing technology is continually evolving. I am interested in piloting methods for rapid identification of phage types. Among the many potential applications in our research, such methods could be used to more quickly characterize newly isolated phages and identify candidates for whole genome sequencing.