Q: Please tell us about yourself – where did you live before Seattle and what were you doing?
A: I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin and attended college at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. I majored in microbiology and pursued a minor in public health. During my four years in Minneapolis, I worked in three research labs studying avian botulism, Candida albicans antifungal resistance, and tuberculosis drug persistence. I also was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach a microbiology lab course for two summers. After graduation, I worked for two years as a technician in the tuberculosis lab I worked in as an undergraduate.
Q: What’s your academic focus and what research are you doing as a Research Assistant (RA)?
A: I’m a PhD student in the Pathobiology program – a program that combines my interests in pathogenesis research and global health. I’m interested in understanding molecular mechanisms that define how bacterial pathogens make us sick. This quarter I’m working at Seattle Children’s Hospital with Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal and am studying interactions between group B streptococcus and bacteria of the vaginal microbiome. Although group B strep colonizes about 30% of women, only some of these women experience complications of ascending group B strep infection during pregnancy. Understanding this bacterium-microbiome interaction may help us to learn how this pathogen is able to colonize a niche that is generally well protected by healthy bacteria.
Q: What’s been the most valuable part of your Research Assistantship thus far?
A: Since I already have a lot of research experience, I was looking for a mentor that would let me be fairly independent and that would let me choose my own adventure, so to speak. Even though everyone in the Rajagopal lab has their own project, we are also an extremely collaborative team. This has helped me to experience many interesting projects during my 10-week rotation. It has also allowed me to learn cool new techniques ranging from mouse cardiac blood collection and intraperitoneal injections to how to use an anaerobic chamber and fluorescence microscope.
Alyssa Brokaw is a recipient of the Department of Global Health Graduate School Fund for Excellence and Innovation (GSFEI) Top Scholar Award.