Dr. Blake Wiedenheft
I like viruses. My career has been dedicated to understanding the mechanisms that viruses use to manipulate their hosts and the counter defense systems that microbes employ to defend themselves from infection. As a pre-doctoral fellow, my dissertation focused on the unusual viruses that infect thermoacidophilic archaea. In what was maybe the best Ph.D. project ever, I traveled around the globe collecting samples and isolate viruses from geothermal features located in some of the world's wildest places (e.g., Yellowstone National Park, Kamchatka Russia, etc.). The resilience of life in these seemingly inhospitable environments (i.e., +80C and ~pH3) fueled my curiosity to understand the genetic, biochemical, and structural basis for life at high temperatures. Today I continue to be intrigued by the mechanisms of resistance but instead of high temperate my lab aims to understand how bacteria contend with pervasive viral predators. Our work focuses primarily on understanding the structural and functional basis of adaptive immunity in bacteria.
"My favorite question is “Why?”. I want to know not only how life works, but why it works the way it does. This question has been driving my scientific career through very diverse fields. I started my scientific path in Siberia, studying tick-borne pathogens. After completing my masters, I then earned a PhD in Molecular Biology developing anti-cancer drugs. It was a lot of animal work. No brag, just fact: now I can inject mice in the tail vein with my eyes closed. In 2018, I made an exciting switch to gene editing and became a part of Wiedenheft lab."
As a Ph.D. student, I studied the bacterial RNA chaperone Hfq, which facilitates the annealing of regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs), to mRNAs encoding stress response genes and virulence factors. My work showed that the unstructured, acidic C-terminus of Hfq mimics nucleic acids to regulate the binding, competition, and release of RNAs from Hfq’s structured N-terminus.
Phages have nefariously co-opted Hfq (Host Factor for phage Q-beta replication). I’ve been drawn to bacterial defense against phages, in the form of another RNA-guided genetic regulation pathway, the CRISPR systems. CRISPR is an adaptive immune system, that creates long-lasting, specific protection against previously encountered phages. I am fascinated by how CRISPR distinguishes self from non-self, as well as the creation of immunological memory when a bacterium initially encounters a given phage.
My passion is gene editing. I feel extremely lucky to work in science today, when we have power to alter DNA of all living organisms, including our own species. My scientific journey started with induced pluripotent stem cells and eventually led me to CRISPR/Cas9. I want to improve this technique and contribute to its advance to clinical applications. My dream is to see the world, where genetic diseases could be cured as easy as a runny nose.
I am interested in improving algae bioproduct production through genetic modification, and better understanding the consequences of algae-virus interactions. Algae show great potential as a sustainable source of fuel and other useful bioproducts. I want to elucidate how algae metabolic systems process nutrients and how to manipulate these systems to produce desired products. Further, I am intrigued by how algae have evolved to survive in competition with lytic algae viruses.
Cole is an undergraduate student studying Chemical and Biological Engineering. Cole’s research is focused on the Homology-directed repair mechanism in DNA. In his free time, Cole enjoys mountain biking and skiing.
My name is Dominick Faith, I grew up about five hours north of Bozeman in Kalispell Montana. I will be going into the junior year of my undergraduate studies here at MSU, and I am majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience. I first heard about CRISPR during a presentation my classmates were doing in a biology class I took last year. Upon doing further research on the subject I became truly fascinated with the CRISPR technology and needed to know more about it, that's where the Wiedenheft lab came in. I am currently in the sponge stage of the lab where I do my best to absorb any information that comes my way from everyone in the lab. And I'm loving every minute of it.
Laina is an undergraduate student studying biological engineering. Her work in the lab primarily focuses on phages. In her free time, Laina enjoys being outdoors and running for the MSU Cross-Country team.
MaryClare (MC) Rollins
I am fascinated by the biology and ecology of bacteria and their viruses. I want to understand how complex interactions between bacteria and phage have been shaped by billions of years of co-evolution, and how these interactions affect larger ecosystems. I'm currently working on structure/function studies of bacterial adaptive defense systems.
I am an undergraduate student in Chemical and Biological engineering who enjoys getting his mind boggled by some seriously radical science. Never before has my curiosity been fed like it does when I’m doing science and around the people in this lab. I’m currently working under Calvin Cicha studying the interactions between algae and their viruses as well as finding ways to genetically modify algae for desired bioproducts. My journey in the lab is still young as I began in May of 2018 but my interest in biology and in CRISPR continues to grow as my knowledge of the field broadens. Outside of the lab, I enjoy solid conversations, hiking, snowboarding, camping and yoga and I love having people around to share the fun with.
I am a graduate student in the Microbiology and Immunology program at Montana State University. I am originally from Turkey and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering with Microbiology and Genetics minors from MSU. My research focuses on the functional versatility of Type I-F CRISPR-Cas systems. Apart from being a graduate student, I enjoy hiking, biking, traveling and, playing guitar.
Paul Van Erp
I'm interested in molecular machines aka proteins. Nature has optimized these tiny Nano-machines during the eons of evolution. By understanding how these machines work in exhaustive detail we will be able to design our own in the future. (This technology can then be used to create bonsai-animals, because who doesn't want a tiny sperm whale for your aquarium, or dog-sized mammoth running around the Living room)
I am a undergraduate student majoring in Cell Biology/Neuroscience and English Literature. My interest in the lab is to better understand the activity and importance of the type I-E CRISPR system in E. coli. Apart from research, I enjoy playing soccer, the violin and flute and traveling.
I’m interested in the evolutionary battle that’s occurring between bacteria and their viruses. I’m especially fascinated in the interactions between bacteria and bacteriophage in structured communities such as biofilms. The bacterial defense mechanisms, like CRISPR, that our lab specializes in are very important for bacterial resistance to viral infection, and I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to merge bacteriophage, CRISPR, and biofilm research into a single project.
Dr. Royce Wilkinson
I enjoy the interface between chemistry and biology. I've worked in labs doing organic synthesis to natural product isolation to protein biochemistry. One of the basic outcomes of scientific research is the identification and characterization of biological entities (natural products, proteins/enzymes, etc.) and adapting them as tools for use in the lab or to bring a benefit to society. CRISPR-based genome editing is one of the latest 'headline producing' examples of the ways that basic scientific research can lead to paradigm shifts in the way we do science or live our lives.
I am a Bozeman native, excited to be working at the interface of microbial-viral coevolution. The weaponry each side has deployed in this ancient arms-race fascinates and excites me. My background is in evolutionary biology, and I am thrilled to be working in the field of CRISPR research.
I am interested in the interplay between genomes and their environment. I was carried into the Wiedenheft lab by a desire to understand the architecture of the transcriptional programs executed by genomes in response to salient stimuli – threat, feast, famine, etc - and how those programs are updated, hijacked, and hacked.
I am a graduate student in the Microbiology and Immunology program at Montana State University. Originally from Tanzania, I have a great interest in CRISPR-Cas systems specifically as a tool to study obligate intracellular parasites. Apart from studies and research, I enjoy hiking, biking, guitar playing, and football.
I like molecular biology, in the sense that ever since I first heard of them, I have loved to think about all the proteins and machinery bouncing around and interacting with this grand complex web, all working towards the grand overriding purpose of survival and reproduction. From this initial interest, I started to become interested in genetic engineering, such as to place myself as the meistro.
Jessica is an undergraduate student studying Biomedical Sciences. Her work in the lab primarily focuses on phages and Thermus Thermophilus. In her free time, Jessica enjoys being outdoors, yoga, and snowshoeing in Yellowstone.
Dr. Heini Miettinen-Granger
My research during the past 35 years has focused on mammalian cell and molecular biology.
I have investigated the function of various receptors involved in immune defense,
including the Fc receptor, the formyl peptide receptor, and the C5a receptor.
In February of 2017, I made a big switch to the world of prokaryotic immune defense by joining the Wiedenheft lab. I hope the old saying, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks", does not apply to me.
I am interested in the structure and function of Type I systems. Type I-E in E. coli and Type I-F in P.aeruginosa and the cholerae phage ICP-1. I primarily work on cloning and protein expression/purification of multi-subunit protein complexes and enzymes in order to perform structural analyses and biochemical assays.
All of the projects that I work on are in collaboration with other members of the
lab. Having a team that works well together leads not only to high-caliber scientific
research but also to a fun and engaging work environment. I am proud to be a part
of such a team in the Wiedenheft lab.
Myndi Holbrook is an undergraduate researcher from San Clemente, CA studying Microbiology at Montana State University.
Keep calm and put your lab coat on. My research project aims to understand the relationship between C. trachomatis and the human host. I am currently using CRISPR-Cas9techonolgies to test how specific human genes contribute to the C. trachomatis life cycle. After I receive my undergraduate degree in Microbiology, I aim to work in a Public Health Lab.
Alyssa is an undergraduate student studying Microbiology. Alyssa's research focuses on the discovery of non-CRISPR mediated immune systems in Bacteria. When she's not in the lab she might be in the clouds (flying) or in the studio playing the piano.
Brittney is an undergraduate majoring in Microbiology. Her research has been supported by the NIH INBRE and the MSU undergraduate scholars program.
I never anticipated being so intrigued by bacterial immune systems. When I first joined the Wiedenheft Lab in 2015, I was not familiar with CRISPR systems or many of the molecular techniques being used in the lab. In the last couple years, I've learned the lingo that comes with being a CRISPR aficionado and my current research focuses on the mechanisms that drive CRISPR immunity in Type 1 systems.
Dr. Emma Kate Loveday
As an undergraduate Emma studied Biochemistry at Suffolk University in Boston, MA. One of her first lab jobs was in the molecular virology laboratory of Dr. Priscilla Schaffer studying herpesviruses and Emma fell in love with virology and the study of infectious diseases. Her journey as a graduate student took Emma to the University of British Columbia and the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba where she studied the role of small non-coding RNAs during avian influenza A virus infections under the supervision of her supervisors Dr. François Jean and Dr. John Pasick. As a postdoctoral scholar in the Wiedenheft lab, Emma is now researching the role of host factors associated with Chlamydial pathogenesis.
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