Andrew Krusenstjerna is a rising fourth-year PhD candidate in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics. He trains in the lab of Professor Brian Stevenson, PhD, whose research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which pathogenic bacteria sense their environments and respond by regulating gene expression, as well as the functions of bacterial surface proteins during infection processes.

In the following Q&A, Krusenstjerna shares more about his experience in the Stevenson Lab, and why he pursued a career in science.

Q: What research projects are you currently involved in?

A: The focus of my dissertation research revolves around the protein DnaA, the master regulator of chromosome replication and transcription factor. This protein is well described in other bacteria, but for Borrelia burgdorferi, little is known.

So far, what I have uncovered is how DnaA regulates a pair of genes that are important for the bacteria’s transition from the tick to the mammal. My goal is to further characterize the functions of DnaA in B. burgdorferi to gain a better understanding of how replication and virulence are coordinated in the Lyme disease pathogen.

Q: How has Dr. Stevenson’s mentorship helped you achieve your goals so far?

A: Dr. Stevenson is a mentor that treats his students as peers. He encourages us to think independently and is always available to discuss ideas.

As a well-established scientist in the field, he has also provided me and the other graduate students in our lab the opportunity to travel to conferences, regional and international, to share our work, network, and keep up with the latest research.

Q: Why did you want to pursue training in microbiology?

A: I decided to pursue training in microbiology after I took the microbiology lab during my senior year as an undergraduate at UK. I had an interest in going to medical school at the time, but exposure to lab work excited me.

After graduating, I decided to pursue this interest, and I ultimately ended up at Gibson Bioscience, now Microbiologics, here in Lexington. I worked there for three years in research and development, studying how bacteria respond to the stress of freeze-drying. I worked under Dr. Debasish “Joy” Ghosh at Gibson Bioscience, a former postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Tony Sinai at the UK College of Medicine. Dr. Ghosh was an excellent mentor, and he encouraged my decision to go to graduate school.

I chose to come back to UK because of my interest in Dr. Stevenson’s work on gene regulation.

Q: What are your career goals?

A: My goal after graduating is to remain in research, specifically in the study of pathogenic bacteria. I especially want to be a mentor that helps aspiring scientists, particularly individuals from underrepresented groups. Whether that path will be academic, governmental, or industrial is still up in the air.


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