Luke McKay

Research Advances and Awards

Postdoctoral Researcher, Luke McKay of the Boyd Lab, receives NASA Fellowship

Dr. Luke McKay joined the GeoBiology Lab of Dr. Eric Boyd this past year after completing his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.  Luke has just been awarded a NASA Fellowship in support of his work looking at microbes that thrive in extreme environments. His work focuses on metal reducing archaea from geothermal hot springs and subglacial sediments, and "what may be one of the oldest life-sustaining processes on Earth". NASA is interested in what these microbial communities might tell us about life on Earth during the early days, and what that might tell us about life on other planets.   

Learn more about Dr. Luke McKay, and his work with the Dr. Eric Boyd, in the GeoBiology Lab.


Will McGuiness

Focus on Undergraduate Achievement:  Will McGuinness 

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology would like to recognize the achievements of Will McGuinness. Will was recently selected by the Council on Undergraduate Research to present his research in Washington D.C at the annual Posters on the Hill event.  

Will was selected as one of 60 undergraduate students from around the country, and as the sole student from the State of Montana.  He will present his research to invited guests including Senators, Congressional Representatives, federal agency program officers, and the science press corps, among others.  It is an amazing opportunity to speak at a national level to our representatives about the importance of advancing research, and to share ideas with other top students in his field.  

Abstract: There are approximately 1031 tailed bacteriophage in the biosphere, making them the most abundant organism. Phage are viruses that infect bacteria. Due to the large diversity and abundance, no two bacteriophage that have been isolated are genetically identical. Phage products have potential in disease therapy to mitigate the steady advance of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In the current study, a bacteriophage specific to S. aureus was isolated from bovine hair. The bacteriophage was characterized using purification, amplification, cesium chloride banding, gel electrophoresis, transmission electron microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. These characterizations were the first step in understanding the distinct properties associated with Staphylococcal phage JB. We next investigated the ability of nanoparticles to increase the infectivity of JB phage. Results show mixing JB with a 30.0% iron-doped hydroxyapatite nanoparticle caused a significant increase in bacteriophage infectivity. To determine if the phage-nanoparticle cocktail influenced the ability of the bacteriophage to eliminate S. aureus infection we used in vivo mouse models, which included skin and intraperitoneal infections, Results demonstrate that the phage-nanoparticle cocktail had a significant impact on reducing bacterial burden in both models. These data suggest phage-nanoparticle cocktails could be developed to treat complex multi-drug resistant infections and/or wound management.


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Please Welcome New Faculty Member:  Dr. Raina Plowright

We are very pleased to introduce Dr. Raina Plowright, the newest member of our growing faculty!  Dr. Plowright comes to us from Pennsylvania State University where she has been working for the past several years as a Research Associate, and as a David H. Smith Fellow prior to that.   

Research Interests:  My research integrates approaches from epidemiology, ecology, and veterinary medicine to elucidate infectious disease dynamics in wildlife.  I work on emerging infectious diseases that occur in wildlife but can spill over to domestic animals and humans, as well as infectious diseases that impact wildlife conservation.

Education:  Dr. Plowright received her PhD in Ecology from UC Davis, where she also studied Epidemiology for her Masters degree.  Her undergraduate education was at the University of Sydney.