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Degree Program University
Ph.D. Cell & Molecular Biology University of Wisconsin - Madison
B.A. Biochemistry & French Smith College

My Siena Experience

My Teaching Philosophy

Biology isn’t just a collection of facts; it’s about asking questions, thinking analytically, and making connections to understand how the world works.  It’s beautiful and astonishing, and I want to help students see why I find it so fascinating. In biology classes, students should learn how to think about and approach problems; work collaboratively; and communicate effectively. These skills prepare students to be successful professionals and engaged citizens.

What I Love About Siena

Siena fosters the close student-faculty relationships that support lasting learning.  Small classes and mentoring research students in the lab mean I get to know students as people -- not just their names, but their interests and aspirations, so I connect what students are learning to the things they care about.  

My Favorite Courses to Teach

I love teaching both cell biology and biochemistry.  Cell biology was my favorite class in college, and I was a biochemistry major, so I get to teach all my favorite topics, and I love working with students who are at different points in their college careers.

My Professional Experience

Current Research

Your decision about what to eat for lunch probably won’t change your life.  A cell’s decision about what to eat, however, can have wide-ranging effects on its behavior, and ultimately human health.  For example, cancer cells “forget” they are part of a multicellular organism and begin eating glucose like unicellular organisms; if this new diet is disrupted, the cells die. Similarly, when the fungal pathogen Candida albicans changes carbon sources, it also changes its shape, the genes it expresses, its ability to cause disease, and its susceptibility (or resistance) to anti-fungal drugs.  At the cellular level, “you are what you eat” takes on new meaning.

Students in the Gunsalus lab study the effect of nutrient availability on the gene expression and carbon metabolism of the opportunistic pathogen C. albicans.  C. albicans resides harmlessly in the guts of most humans, but in people with a compromised immune system, it can overgrow and invade into the bloodstream.  C. albicans must therefore be able to alter its energy metabolism (what it eats) in response to the different carbon sources available throughout the body.  
Coconut oil contains fatty acids that have antimicrobial properties; we are currently investigating whether we can use the fatty acids found in coconut oil to kill and change the behavior of C. albicans in ways that could be used to prevent or treat C. albicans infections.  

Articles & Book Reviews

  • Dietary Supplementation with Medium-Chain Triglycerides Reduces Candida Gastrointestinal Colonization in Preterm Infants
    The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
    March, 2018
  • The new face of US science
    Nature, vol. 541
    January, 2017
  • Transcriptional Profiling of Candida albicans in the Host
    Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1356
    2016
  • Manipulation of Host Diet To Reduce Gastrointestinal Colonization by the Opportunistic Pathogen Candida albicans
    mSphere
    November, 2015
  • Shaping the Future of Research: a perspective from junior scientists
    F1000Research, vol. 3
    2015
  • A Functional Portrait of Med7 and the Mediator Complex in Candida albicans
    PLoS Genetics
    November, 2014
  • Induction of the RNA regulator LIN28A is required for the growth and pathogenesis of RESTless breast tumors
    Cancer Research, vol. 72
    July, 2012
  • The transcription factor REST is lost in aggressive breast cancer
    PLoS Genetics
    June, 2010