Bacteria live in complex communities all around us. Members of the community can influence each other by making nutrients available to other microbes or making toxins that harm other microbes. In the Taga lab, we study community interactions, specifically focusing on a family of nutrients called corrinoids (an example of which is Vitamin B12). Corrinoids are enzyme cofactors used by most bacteria for a wide variety of cellular processes. Corrinoids influence bacteria in two ways: 1) bacteria can use corrinoids as coenzymes to carry out reactions in the cell, and 2) corrinoids can be recognized by the regulation machinery that controls expression of corrinoid-related genes. The regulatory element that recognizes corrinoids is called a riboswitch. This is a section of RNA that binds the corrinoid and can allow or prevent transcription of the downstream gene. The overall goal of the project focuses on the mechanism of how the riboswitch works.
As a member of the Taga lab, you will generate and test strains with mutations in the riboswitch to dissect the mechanism of regulation. You will learn how to design a plasmid construct, make new bacterial strains, and assay transcription using a fluorescent reporter. You will gain experience in how to ask, test, and analyze hypothesis-driven questions. Your work on this project will contribute to our understanding of how bacteria sense and react to corrinoids, which ultimately could lead to better ways of controlling microbial communities present in the environment or associated with humans.
No prior lab experience is needed, but a strong enthusiasm for lab research and intellectual engagement with the project are required. You should have three or more 3-hour time blocks per week available in your schedule for the entire semester. We encourage students requiring financial assistance to apply (please contact us about details).
Please include a few sentences about yourself in your application. We are not interested in your GPA but rather in your interests, for example what made you choose your major, which courses did you enjoy most (again: not interested in grades), and what are you hoping to do with your education.