Bacterial Battles: Microbes & Antibiotic Resistance with Jennifer Tsang

We are delighted to welcome our next curator, microbiologist Dr Jennifer Tsang (@jw_tsang ). Jennifer is a postdoctoral research fellow Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. Jennifer graduated with a PhD in microbiology from the University of Georgia, where she studied bacterial motility. Jennifer studies antimicrobial resistance, and also writes a microbiology blog called The Microbial Menagerie and is an editor for Science Seeker and the PostDoc Journal. Here’s Jennifer in her own words.

 

I have been intrigued by the world around me at a young age. I loved that there were so many things happening right in front of me that I couldn’t see: bacteria, Jennifer Tsang (C) viruses, atoms. I wanted to know more about the microscopic world and to see it for myself. I enjoyed learning about the earth, evolution, and animals in my formative years and eventually became a microbiology major in college.

 

In my undergraduate at the University of Rochester, I became fascinated by working in a lab: growing bacteria, deleting genes from cells, doing REAL science. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would so I applied to graduate school to study microbiology. I spent those years deciphering the genetic intricacies behind how bacteria swim and move around. What keeps me interested in microbiology is how genius microbes are, how they always can find ways to circumvent tough circumstances.

 

I work on antimicrobial resistant bacteria such as carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and colistin resistant bacteria, both which have been featured in the news lately. What I want to know is what genes contribute to resistance to these drugs. I also use robotics and automation to identify potential small molecules that could be developed into therapeutics against drug resistant bacteria.

 

Microbiology is everywhere. We rely on microbes to make foods like wine, beer, cheese, and even chocolate. Microbes can make you sick or can help your body function properly. They even help plants obtain nutrients. My work on antimicrobial resistance has direct relevance to the public. Recently, antimicrobial resistance have dominated the news with untreatable highly drug resistant bacterial infections popping up left and right. We are approaching the “post-antibiotic Jennifer Tsang (C)era,” a time where once treatable infections are no longer treatable due to antibiotic resistance to all drugs available today. Research in understanding how bacteria become resistant to drugs and how resistance arises as well as the development of new drugs to treat these infections is vital to overcoming this global problem.

 

I ferment kefir and I have to feed the kefir grains (symbiotic globs of bacteria and yeast that carry out the fermentation) new milk everyday to keep them alive and happy.

 

Aside from fermentations, I write a microbiology blog called The Microbial Menagerie When I am not doing science, I read, do yoga and run (survived my first half marathon last fall!). I also occasionally practice clarinet and piano.

 

On my day off: I would love to be traveling, seeing history, being in the mountains or the beach, and eating unique foods.

 

Please welcome Jennifer!

 

 

 

 

 

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