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Student Profile in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Rachael Chanin

Molecular Microbiology Graduate Program

Mentor: Sebastian Winter, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Psychology
Undergraduate Institution: Brandeis University
Hometown: Boston, Mass.

Awards/Fellowships:
Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science Training Grant
Molecular Microbiology Training Grant

Rachael Chanin

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

My first research experiences were in the laboratories of Dr. Christina Faherty and Dr. Alessio Fasano as a summer intern in the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. At the time, I was enrolled in a master’s program in human nutrition and dietetics at Simmons College. However, during the internship, I became captivated by the process of scientific research. I enjoyed reading primary literature, identifying gaps in knowledge, and designing experiments to test my hypotheses. Gaining hands-on experience in a real-world laboratory setting showed me what I was truly passionate about. I recognized that in my intended career as a nutritionist, my primary task would be to implement research, not produce it, and I wanted to continue doing research. After the completion of my internship, I was hired as a technician and continued working in the Faherty Lab for two years before applying to graduate school.

Please describe your research.

Intestinal bacteria
Intestinal bacteria.

My ongoing pre-doctoral research project is directed at understanding how inflammation alters the metabolic environment of the gut lumen, resulting in microbial dysbiosis. Currently, I am exploring the role that host-derived reactive oxygen species play in the outgrowth of facultative anaerobes during colitis. The results of this work may provide insight into how microbial dysbiosis occurs and provide potential therapeutic targets for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

One of the reasons I chose to pursue graduate studies at UT Southwestern is because of the Microbiology Department’s strength in studying how endogenous molecules in the intestinal tract can act as cues for bacterial pathogens to regulate virulence factor expression. There are established investigators with expertise in bacterial physiology, bacterial pathogenesis, host-microbiota interactions, and clinical scientists, which create an ideal environment to study enteric bacteria in a mechanistic way.

What do you think makes the Molecular Microbiology Program one of the best?

What really sets UTSW apart is the environment. Yes, the research facilities and quality of science here are outstanding. But more importantly the atmosphere is supportive and encouraging. The faculty are approachable and the graduate school staff are always willing to go out of their way to help. Additionally, the wide range of research at UTSW enables collaboration with experts in biochemistry, neuroscience, biophysics, metabolism, and cell biology.

– Rachael ChaninMolecular Microbiology Graduate Program