About Us

William Shafer, Ph.D.DIRECTOR:
William Shafer, PhD

wshafer@emory.edu

William Shafer received his PhD degree in Microbiology from Kansas State University in 1979 where he studied the genetics of enterotoxin synthesis by Staphylococcus aureus. After postdoctoral studies with P.F. Sparling  at the University of North Carolina where he studied the genetics of antibiotic resistance expressed by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, he moved to Emory University School of Medicine where he now Full Professor. He is also a Senior Research Career Scientist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. He has been continually funded by the NIH and VA since 1984, has published over 115 manuscripts, serves on multiple Editorial Boards and served on several NIH, VA and international study sections.

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TRAINEE:
Pooja Srivanas
Graduate Student
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Pooja is a graduate student in the Molecular and Systems Pharmacology Program in the laboratory of Dr. Christine M. Dunhan. She earned her B.A. Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley.

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MENTOR:
Christine M. Dunham, PhD
Associate Professor
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Dr. Christine M. Dunham is Associate Professor of Biochemistry and an Associated Faculty Member in the Department of Chemistry in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences. She earned her B.A. in Biochemistry at Barnard College, Columbia University. She earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz, Laboratory of Prof. William G. Scott, with the thesis entitled, "Structure and Function of an RNA enzyme".

Dr. Dunham was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England, in the Laboratory of Dr. Venki Ramakrishnan.

 

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TRAINEE:
Cassie Schrank
Graduate Student

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Cassie is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry in the Emory University College of Arts and Sciences.

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MENTOR:
Bill Wuest, PhD
Professor
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Dr. Wuest is a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Emory Department of Chemistry Graduate Program. He research focuses on leveraging natural product total synthesis to better understand antibiotic mechanisms of action. His group utilizes synthetic chemistry, microbiology, genetics, and proteomic methods to develop novel compounds to combat bacteria. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry/Business at the University of Notre Dame, his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, under the advisement of Prof. Amos B. Smith, III and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Prof. Christopher T. Walsh at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Wuest is the recipient of a number of awards recognizing his research & scholarship including an NSF CAREER Award, the 2017 ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award, the 2020 David W. Robertson Award from the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry, the New Investigator Award from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, the Thieme Journal of Chemistry Award, the Young Investigator Award from the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University, and the Italia-Eire Foundation Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award from the College of Science and Technology at Temple University. He is also a 2019 AAAS Leshner Fellow and an RCSA Scialog Fellow. His research is currently supported by an NIH R35 MIRA grant and NSF funding.

 

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TRAINEE:
Cheyenne Lee
Graduate Student
Contact Cheyenne

Cheyenne Lee graduated with a BS in biotechnology from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in May 2019. At UNCP, she worked with Dr. Conner Sandefur on characterizing the antimicrobial properties of Lumbee Tribe herbal teas under the NSF-COMPASS and NIH-RISE programs. Currently, she is a Ph. D. candidate in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (MMG) program and an ARTDTP fellow at Emory University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Shonna McBride, Cheyenne’s project focuses on characterizing Clostridioides difficile sporulation initiation specifically through the activities of the KipI and KipA proteins and the histidine-kinase CD1579. Without the ability to form spores, C. difficile cannot be transmitted as efficiently through the environment to infect new hosts. Knowing this, Cheyenne’s project focuses on understanding how C. difficile forms the spores that make it easily transmissible so that new targets for novel therapeutics to inhibit sporulation initiation may be uncovered.

Dr. McBride

MENTOR:
Shonna M. McBride, PhD
Associate Professor
Contact Dr. McBride

Shonna McBride, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Emory University School of Medicine. Research in the McBride laboratory centers on the emerging pathogen, Clostridium difficile. C. difficile is an spore-forming and toxin-producing bacterium that causes chronic intestinal disease which is both difficult and costly to treat. The two main factors that contribute to C. difficile infections are the ability of the bacterium to form resilient spores that allow the pathogen to spread, and the inherent resistance of the bacterium to antimicrobials. Current research topics in the lab include characterizing the genetic pathways that control spore formation, identifying mechanisms of resistance to antimicrobials, and investigating therapeutics to combat C. difficile infections. Research by the McBride lab has identified novel mechanisms used by this bacterium to respond to antimicrobial peptides, such as the CprABC transporter and the ClnRAB regulatory system, and a regulator of both toxin production and sporulation, RstA

Dr. McBride joined the Emory faculty in June 2012.  She received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2005 and a Bachelor of Science degree from McNeese State University in 1999.  She trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the field of bacterial pathogenesis at the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Harvard Medical School from 2005 to 2008 and at the Tufts University School of Medicine from 2008 to 2012.  Dr. McBride’s research is supported by a K01 Career Development Award and an R03 Research grant from the NIDDK/NIH.  

Hannah Smith

TRAINEE:
Hannah Smith
Graduate Student
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"Hannah Smith earned her BS in Microbiology and Genomics & Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University and conducted undergraduate research under the mentorship of Dr. Christopher Waters. There, she used complementary genetic and biochemical approaches to investigate the interaction between the master biofilm regulator of Vibrio cholerae, VpsR, and the second messenger molecule cyclic-di-GMP to determine their contribution to biofilm formation. Hannah is currently a PhD candidate in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Program in the laboratory of Dr. Marcin Grabowicz where she is studying lipoprotein trafficking in Gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli.

Lipoprotein trafficking is essential for all Gram-negative species, making this process an excellent target for novel antibiotics. In E. coli, the lipoprotein chaperone LolA traffics lipoproteins across the periplasm to the outer membrane (OM) lipoprotein receptor, LolB. Although the proteins involved in LolAB lipoprotein trafficking are known, their molecular mechanisms remain unknown; specifically, the way in which LolA binds lipoproteins is not known. LolA-lipoprotein complexes are short-lived; therefore, studying trafficking intermediates has been challenging. It was recently discovered that lipoprotein trafficking by LolAB can be made conditionally non-essential in E. coli. The ability to remove LolB creates a unique and powerful system to stabilize the typically transient LolA-lipoprotein complexes and study this interaction in molecular detail. Using mutagenesis and several crosslinking approaches, Hannah will resolve the mechanism by which LolA binds its lipoprotein cargo.

Additionally, many Gram-negative organisms like Caulobacter crescentus produce LolA but lack a LolB homolog. It is unknown how lipoprotein trafficking, and more specifically LolA, functions in these organisms. One fascinating possibility is that LolA acts as both a chaperone and outer membrane insertase in these organisms. Indeed, Hannah’s preliminary data suggests that LolA from C. crescentus can complement the loss of both LolA and LolB in E. coli. She will employ in vitro biochemical assays to determine whether this LolA is in fact bifunctional.

Together, these projects will provide molecular-level details of lipoprotein trafficking across Gram-negative bacteria, which will enable design of novel antibiotics that target OM
biogenesis."

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MENTOR:
Marcin Grabowicz, PhD
Assistant Professor
Contact Dr. Grabowicz

Dr. Marcin Grabowicz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology with a joint appointment in the Division of Infectious Disease at Emory University School of Medicine. Marcin completed postdoctoral training in the lab of Tom Silhavy at Princeton University, applying bacterial genetics to understand outer membrane biogenesis in Escherichia coli. Previously, Marcin received a PhD from The University of Adelaide (Australia), focusing on bacterial pathogenesis, bacterial cell biology, and vaccine development.

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TRAINEE:
Rachel Done
Graduate Student
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Rachel received a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics program in the laboratory of Dr. Joanna Goldberg. She is studying how the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa senses and responds to temperature changes as it transitions from living in the environment to infecting a human. As temperature is an important stimulus for regulating virulence, a better understanding of thermoregulation in P. aeruginosa could inform the development of therapeutics to prevent and treat P. aeruginosa infections. 

 

Dr. Goldberg

MENTOR:
Joanna B. Goldberg, PhD

Professor
Contact Dr. Goldberg

Joanna B. Goldberg is a Full Professor to the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy/Immunology, Cystic Fibrosis and Sleep in Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. She holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Her research program focuses on bacterial genetics, genomics, and pathogenesis, with a particular emphasis on respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis, with the goal of developing novel therapies to prevent and treat chronic diseases.