Notes from the Lab: New Year, New ARAC Staff!

The ARAC superbug-fighting team is growing! We’ve recently hired a Ph.D. graduate student and three interns (current undergraduate GW students) to work on a number of research projects. From tracking how eating contaminated chicken can cause drug-resistant urinary tract infections to gauging if the human microbiome can protect people from dangerous pathogens, their research is grounded in finding real world data on and solutions to antibiotic resistance, one of the most pressing public health crises today.

We’re excited to introduce you to our newest team members! (Check out our previous stories on ARAC's research staff and our summer interns, who had such a great time, they decided to stay on for the school year!)

Dan Park, Graduate Research Assistant

Daniel is currently a Ph.D. student at George Washington University in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Prior to joining GW, Dan’s research focused on pediatric pneumonia, including providing support for revised WHO vaccine dosing schedules for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines and novel diagnostics such as the use of digital stethoscopes in developing country settings to aid healthcare workers in the diagnosis and proper treatment of pneumonia. Dan received the M.S.P.H. degree in international health from Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2011.

Can you give us a general overview of the research projects you will be working on?

In addition to providing epidemiologic and statistical support to a variety of antibiotic stewardship projects, I will also draw from experience in accelerating uptake of life-saving vaccines through the translation of research into evidence based policies. My research will also focus on the upper respiratory and gut microbiomes; specifically, the identification and role of potentially beneficial bacteria in the upper respiratory microbiome, the impact of breastfeeding on the development of the respiratory and gut microbiomes, and the interaction between the gut and nasal microbiomes.

What's your favorite lab tool and why?

Probably a good marker. Organization and repeatability are foundational to lab work, and a good marker is a critical component of that process.

If you were a bacterium, which would you be?

I would actually be a virus. Something like the Enterobacteria phage T4 because I like the structure, or the influenza virus with its efficiency and adaptability. In general, I like how viruses bring us to question the definition of life.

Who is your microbiology hero?

John Snow (the father of epidemiology, not the fictional character!). He used simple tools and intuition to identify the source of a cholera outbreak, then immediately put it that knowledge into action by simply removing the handle to the water pump contributing to the outbreak.

Our three newest undergraduate interns are working on a project measuring changes in three key bacteria (E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter) on retail chicken meat sold in California and comparing those to the bacteria infecting people.

Felicity Nelson is a senior from Los Angeles, California. She is majoring in Public Health with a minor in Business Administration. As she aspires to be an epidemiologist, she will be continuing her studies next year by working towards her Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology.

What’s your favorite part about working in the lab?

My favorite part of the lab is working hands-on in completing the scientific process instead of conducting research at a desk all day.

What's your favorite lab tool and why?

My favorite lab tool is the autoclave. I like how it seems so dramatic whenever it opens and closes!

Alexis Pracar is a senior majoring in public health. Her interests include speaking French, reading Jonathan Franzen, and going on DC adventures. She plans to pursue graduate school in biology with the hopes of unlocking the secrets of aging and the microbiome.

What’s your favorite part about working in the lab?

My favorite part of working in the lab is the feeling of working with a purpose. I think that antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a great threat to human life on earth. I am very grateful to be able to contribute to research that may helps address this problem. I also love working with everyone in lab - we always have a few laughs even during mundane tasks (like labelling).

What's your favorite lab tool and why?

My favorite lab tool is the serological pipette! It makes all that pipetting go by quickly and precisely. I also enjoy the Spiderman walkie-talkie (although it's not an official lab tool) that helps us contact Remy when she's in her office!

Niyati Shah is a freshman at GWU, aspiring to be a Public Health and Political Science double major. She enjoys eating almond butter, drinking chai, and taking pictures of trees.

What’s your favorite part about working in the lab?

My favorite part about working in the lab is confluence streaking. It's quite therapeutic.

What's your favorite lab tool and why?

My favorite would probably be the pipettes.In high school,I worked with very basic, rudimentary pipettes. GWU has fancier pipettes and it's very satisfying to be able to use all of the fancier pipette's knobs and gears for a certain task.