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Research Assistant: Bacterial and Viral-mediated Mechanisms of Chronic Autoimmune Disease

Faculty Mentor: Melodie Weller
Title: Assistant Professor
College: Dentistry
School / Department: Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Project description

The Weller Lab is actively seeking research assistants who are interested in microbiology and autoimmune diseases. We study the complex interplay between environmental pathogen exposures and the emergence of chronic autoimmune diseases, with a particular emphasis on Sjogren’s disease. Sjogren’s disease, a female-predominant autoimmune disease, is characterized by diminished saliva and tear production, inflammation of salivary gland tissues, and the development of autoantibodies. It presents a spectrum of symptoms beyond dry eyes and mouth, including significant extra-glandular manifestations. We believe that chronic pathogen exposures, in conjunction with genetic factors, are critical in triggering these conditions.

Our research integrates a diverse array of techniques such as pathogen sequencing, informatics, advanced cell culture methods, in vivo models and infectious disease epidemiology. These methodologies are crucial in our pursuit to understand the viral triggers and mechanisms underlying autoimmunity. Our ultimate goal is to develop novel preventative strategies and targeted treatments by gaining a deeper understanding of these complex mechanisms.


Keywords: Microbiology, Virology, Bacteria, Autoimmune Disease

Student Role: Students will be involved in project specific tasks that may include:
  • Microbiome (Viral and Bacterial) Genome Sequencing and Analysis: Perform sequencing of viral genomes from clinical and environmental samples and analyze sequencing data using informatics tools to identify viral and bacterial strains and mutations.
  • Informatics: Utilize informatics software to process and analyze large datasets and collaborate with team members to interpret data and draw meaningful conclusions.
  • Cell Culture and In Vitro Experiments: Cultivate and maintain cell lines used for in vitro studies and conduct experiments to observe viral interactions with the cellular environment.
  • In Vivo Model Characterization: Assist in the development and characterization of in vivo models for studying autoimmune responses and analyze data from animal models under the guidance of senior researchers.
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology: Participate in epidemiological studies to understand the spread of pathogens and analyze epidemiological data to identify patterns and correlations with autoimmune diseases.
  • Literature Review and Research Documentation: Conduct thorough literature reviews to support research findings and hypotheses and assist in preparing research documents, including reports, presentations, and publications.
  • Collaborative Research Efforts: Engage in multidisciplinary team meetings, discussions and contribute to the collaborative research environment of the lab by sharing findings and insights.
  • Laboratory Management: Assist in the general maintenance and organization of the lab and ensure compliance with safety and ethical guidelines in all research activities.
Student Benefits: Research Assistant will receive training in a variety of research techniques, have the opportunity to present their work at conferences, contribute to publications, and mentorship for graduate school/career aspirations.
Project Duration: 1-2+ years, up to 19 hours/week
Opportunity Type: Research Assistant
Opportunity Location Type: In Person
Is this a paid opportunity: ToBeDetermined
Paid Description:

Volunteer, This is a paid research position, This is a work-study research position, Prepare a UROP proposal, Write an Honors Thesis or Senior Thesis, Earn independent study credit

Minimum Requirements: Students must have completed basic chemistry and biology courses. Prior lab experience a plus.
How To Apply: Contact