What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
I focus my research on balancing the gut microbiome and modulating the immune responses in this cancer population. I have received an American Cancer Society grant to conduct in vitro experiments showing the efficacy and safety of bacteriophages against MDROs. I am also extending this research to animal models to validate my hypotheses. Currently, my research goals are to (1) investigate further the role of endogenous bacteriophages, specifically in the gut, in balancing the bacterial population (bacteriome) in cancer patients; and (2) open a bacteriophage bank at the University of Florida where well-characterized and ready-to-use bacteriophages targeting MDROs will be available to all interested faculty members.
What excites you about your work?
Being a microbiologist by training, I am always amazed as to how complicated a microscopic entity is and how fast a bacterium or virus can adapt to its environment and mutate rapidly. Specifically, the most exciting entity for me is the bacteriophage, a nanometer-sized virus that can be found anywhere. Bacteriophages are the most abundant entity on earth and can easily adapt to their bacterial host and eradicate it in a few minutes. I love being part of the community studying these microscopic forms in cancer patients. We are only starting to understand their role in the human body, and I believe that the main source of health and disease are the bacterial and the bacteriophage populations in our body (microbiome). I have faith that one day, we, as scientists, can uncover their secrets, prevent disease progression and learn how to maintain a healthy microbiome.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and our 2-year-old daughter. In my spare time, I love to cook, bake and play the piano.