Postdoctoral Researcher (2011-2012)

IST Austria
Am Campus 1
A-3400 Klosterneuburg



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Lab publications

RESEARCH INTEREST

Molecular mechanisms of social immunity in ants

My general interest lies in trying to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern innate immune responses to pathogens and danger signals. 

Social insects such as the ant Lasius neglectus are evolutionarily and ecologically successful in a habitat that is highly conducive to the spread of pathogens. Yet, recent genome studies of six ant species have revealed that, like honeybees, ants have far fewer immune genes than other insects like Drosophila. In addition to mounting individual immune responses, social insects also engage in collective, behavioral defenses (such as grooming) that help reduce the risk of infection among nestmates and prevent the spread of pathogens within the colony. The entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae is one pathogen that commonly infects ants. Previously our group found that social contact between healthy nestmates with ants exposed to fungal spores led to increased survival of nestmates after their own challenge with the same fungus. I am interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying this response, both in the directly exposed individuals and in the nestmates that are exposed via social contact, by examining changes in immune gene expression. By identifying differences in immune gene expression between these groups, we hope to better understand the mechanism of this “social vaccination” and the ways that behavior influences individual and colony-level immunity in ants.

CAREER

2011-2012      Postdoctoral Researcher, IST Austria, Austria

 

2005-2010      PhD, Oregon Health & Science University Portland, OR USA

                            (National Institutes of Health Training Grant T32)

2004-2005      Senior Research Technician, Tufts University Boston, MA USA

 

2002-2004      Research Technician, Dana Farber Cancer Institute Boston, MA USA

 

1997-2001      Undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Ithaca College Ithaca, NY USA