The summer research of Erin Weddle ’16, has resulted in something that’s a first, at least within the five years Associate Professor of Biology Laurel Rodgers, Ph.D., has taught at Shenandoah – a Shenandoah biology student has published research from a summer research project.
Weddle said she’s honored by the recognition for both herself and Shenandoah. “I am hopeful that [Shenandoah’s] biology department can continue to grow and develop in its own research. I’d encourage other Shenandoah students to get involved in summer research, and I’d love to see more publications coming from our university in the future.”
Weddle conducted the research between her junior and senior years through the University of Virginia Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP). Here’s her rundown of the work regarding the Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase gene (blaKPC) :
“Carbapenems are a class of β-lactam antibiotics that are used to treat multidrug-resistant bacteria and are often regarded as the “last line of defense.” Alarmingly, the emergence of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is sweeping the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider CRE an urgent threat. The blaKPC gene encodes Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC), a carbapenemase that inactivates carbapenems and is the primary mechanism responsible for conferring resistance in CRE. The regulatory region of DNA upstream of blaKPC is poorly understood, but deletions in this region have been found in several isolated KPC-harboring strains. We show that these deletions result in higher levels of KPC and increased antibiotic resistance.
“I contributed by doing some of the microbroth dilution resistance testing as well as creating lack fusions and conducting beta-galactosidase assays.”
Weddle said Shenandoah provided her with the scientific foundation that she needed during her summer research. “While I’d had some prior research experience, my undergraduate courses in genetics, biochemistry, microbiology and especially honors cell biology, gave me a basis for understanding the assays I performed during my summer internship. Additionally, my research project for honors cell biology introduced me to thinking critically about data and experimental design. On a different note, the SRIP at UVA is very competitive. I could not have been accepted to the program without the help and support of my professors at Shenandoah. In particular, Dr. Parker, Dr. Haubrick, Dr. Davis and Dr. Rodgers were a huge help.
“The professors were by far the best part of attending Shenandoah. I still keep in touch with several of them, especially Laurel (Dr. Rodgers). I think at one point during my senior year, the entire biology and chemistry departments (professors) had been involved in my planning for my graduate career, from writing letters of recommendation to offering me advice, to supporting me when I was so nervous that I wouldn’t get accepted! The individualized education that came from Shenandoah, and the personal relationships that I built, are the things I cherish most to this day and have been instrumental in my success thus far.”
Weddle was a standout student at Shenandoah, Dr. Rodgers said. “She had a lot of ambition and a lot of drive, and she was very interested in researching and finding answers; very highly motivated.”
Weddle is now working on her doctorate at UVA, in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology (MIC) in the lab of Hervé Agaisse. “I am studying the role of the type III secreted effector, IcsB in dissemination of Shigella flexneri in the intestinal epithelium. ” In the future, she is interested in pursuing a career in biodefense research for the government or private sector.