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Student Profile in Metabolite Sensing in Bacteria

Nestor Ruiz

Molecular Microbiology Graduate Program

Mentor: David Hendrixson, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Biology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Undergraduate Institution: The University of Texas at Austin
Hometown: Little Elm, TX

Awards/Fellowships: Graduate: NIH Diversity Supplement; Undergraduate: The Kemp-Forman Memorial Endowed Presidential Scholarship, Thomas and Elizabeth Merner Scholarship in Natural Sciences

Nestor Ruiz

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

I joined the freshmen research initiative at UT Austin, where I was placed in an undergraduate research lab. There I got learn the basics of research and work on my own independent project. I really enjoyed my time there and learned how much I really loved research.

Please describe your research.

The goal of my research is to understand how Campylobacter jejuni, a common foodborne pathogen, senses and responds to metabolites in the intestines of its host. We discovered that C. jejuni uses the BumSR two-component signal transduction system (TCS) to (a) sense butyrate and other metabolites produced by the intestinal microbiota and (b) respond by modulating expression of genes important for colonization and virulence. I study the molecular mechanism of the BumSR TCS in C. jejuni and its role in sensing metabolites, identifying host niches, and facilitating signal transduction pathways involved in gene expression and colonization. Successful completion of these goals may contribute to discovering ways to impede not only infection of humans, but also reduce its presence in agricultural hosts such as cows, pigs, and chickens.

What do you think makes the Molecular Microbiology Program is one of the top in the country?

The Molecular Microbiology program stands out from other programs due to the interdisciplinary approach it takes when it comes to research. Although it places a strong emphasis on host-pathogen interactions, the Molecular Microbiology program also explores other fields of research like biochemistry, immunology, biophysics, and more. Many of the faculty in the program are also part of other programs and bring that knowledge to the molecular microbiology program.

What do you love about the Molecular Microbiology Program?

My favorite thing about the Molecular Microbiology program is the sense of comradery and community among the students, staff, and faculty. Everyone is willing to lend support when it comes to troubleshooting experiments, writing, or even career advice. Overall, everyone really cares about each other and helping each other be the best scientist they can be.

– Nestor Ruiz

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