I received my Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007 with a major in Molecular Biology. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I worked in several different research environments. As a freshman, I worked in the lab of Professor Mark S. Brownfield in the department of Animal Health and Sciences through the Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program. In Professor Brownfield's lab, I studied how chronic salt loading affects expression of different serotonin receptors in the rat brain using immunohistochemistry of thin brain slices.
During the summer following my freshman year, I worked as a research fellow at the UW-Health Family Practice Residency in Wausau, Wisconsin with support from the UW Medical Scholars Program. At the residency, I participated in patient tracking and education programs.
From 2004 to 2008, I worked as a undergraduate research assistant and technician in the lab of Professor William M. Bement in the Department of Zoology at the UW-Madison. During this time, I employed a number of cell biology techniques to study single-cell wound healing and cytokinesis in the African Clawed Frog, Xenopus laevis. One of the projects I worked on in the Bement lab involved screening a library of small molecules to uncover novel inhibitors of wound healing and cytokinesis. We discovered two new drugs that inhibit these two contractile processes, aptly named Sphinctostatin-1 and -2. In collaboration with George von Dassow (then at the Center for Cell Dynamics in Friday Harbor, Washington), we found that these drugs also inhibit cytokinesis in early Sand Dollar (Dendraster excentricus) embryos. In another project in the Bement lab, we discovered that when single cells in early Xenopus are injured, neighboring cells help the injured cell to repair its wound. This helps to ensure that the tissue remains intact during development of the embryo.
I next began my PhD in the lab of Dr. Ewa K. Paluch at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden, Germany. During my PhD, I primarily worked to develop a novel method to measure the thickness of the cortex, a thin layer of proteins that underlies the plasma membrane and is responsible for determining cell surface mechanics and cell shape. This method, which can be used in live cells, combines high-resolution confocal microscopy and sub-resolution image analysis using a theoretical description of cortex geometry. Since completing my PhD in Dresden in the spring of 2013, the Paluch lab has moved to the MRC-Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (MRC-LMCB) at University College London, where Dr. Paluch is now a professor. During a short postdoc in London, I helped to set up the new lab and to continued to work on the question of how cortex thickness is regulated in cells and what role cortex thickness plays in cell surface mechanics.
In the summer of 2014, I joined the lab of Dr. Danijela Matic Vignjevic at the Institute Curie in Paris, France. In the Vignjevic lab, I am focused on trying to understand how cancer cells migrate away from tumors. This process, also called tumor invasion is the first step in metastasis. Understanding tumor invasion is thus essential to fighting one of the biggest challenges in modern medicine.