Masters of Science in Microbiology student, Marissa Kinney, will be joining the 2023/2024 cohort of graduate students in the Initiative for One Health and the Environment group at UMaine, as she was awarded a fellowship through the group’s NSF NRT funding. She’ll be using this fellowship to cross-train in other research disciplines, and explore the economic and social factors concerning people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, alongside One Health co-mentor Dr. Mario Teisl, Director and Professor of the School of Economics.
Marissa joins fellow Ishaq Lab grad student, Lola Holcomb, who was awarded a fellowship by the group and started with the 2022/2023 cohort.
Master of Science student, Microbiology and Animal and Veterinary Sciences
Blurb: Marissa is a Masters student who loves learning and bench microbiology. She completed her undergraduate at the University of Maine in 2021, earning a BS in Microbiology and a BS in Cellular/Molecular Biology. She devoted a large portion of her time in undergrad to research in the laboratories of Dr. Julie Gosse and Dr. Edward Bernard. Since graduating, she worked in the field of public health at UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, collecting and processing data about violent and drug-related deaths in Maine. While her role at the Center was one she loved dearly, she feels a big pull towards laboratory work and academic research. She recently joined the Ishaq lab and is excited by the new opportunities this position brings.
Marissa was awarded a One Health and the Environment NRT Fellowship 2023 – 2024 at UMaine.
Now, working in my lab, Marissa is focusing on the microbial communities in the gastrointestinal tract, and particularly in the context of broccoli sprouts in the diet and how certain gut bacteria can use them to create an anti-inflammatory compound of interest. She has been developing new protocols for using growth curve analyses and genomic assays (quantitative PCR) to identify bacteria with the capacity to use broccoli sprouts to create anti-inflammatories along different location in the gut, and under difference health or disease states. Over the next few years, she’ll also be learning DNA sequencing library preparation and data analysis, working with human subjects in a diet trial, performing experiments using mice as a model for humans, and a variety of microbiology, genomic, and biochemical laboratory techniques. Marissa’s project is part of a much larger collaborative on the use of dietary broccoli sprouts to resolve symptoms in Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients. As part of that larger collaboration, Marissa will be meeting regularly with the various parts of the project team, including students and researchers at 4 different institutions, and helping on three different projects in the lab to build her skillset. This requires a high degree of organization and coordination, and Marissa immediately stepped into her role.
To expand the lab’s existing work on human gut microbiomes, Marissa will use the NRT training and knowledge base as an opportunity to learn techniques in social sciences and economics. IBD is highly impactful on the wellbeing of people experiencing it acutely or chronically, and there is a large social and economic burden, as well. While any IBD patient could already consume broccoli to potentially receive benefit, nuances in how gut microbes respond to diet, and fears about exacerbating symptoms, preclude this. Being able to understand dietary behaviors, and assess the economic impact of a whole-food palliative strategy, would allow us to better implement our dietary intervention.