“It feels awesome to start a new project in a new place with this kind of momentum. It’s a really special kind of welcome and motivation,” shares Jen Nguyen, a postdoc who joined Carolina Tropini’s lab in January 2021. Nguyen recently received the Killam Award Fellowship for her postdoctoral research and is very excited about her placement in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
“I'm indebted to mentors who have believed in and advocated for me, and in doing so, taught me how to do that for myself. Carolina also has already created a lot of opportunity and inspiration for me. I feel super lucky to have met her.”
Joining the department following her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and years abroad at ETH Zürich in Switzerland (where her grad advisor Roman Stocker is currently based); her research is focused on how the spatial structure of microbial habitats affects the behaviour and function of individual bacterial cells.
“I'm especially interested in how habitat-induced changes in individual bacteria can produce disruptions in much larger processes (like, changes in microbial community composition or rates of chemical cycling),” Nguyen says.
“In the Tropini Lab, I'm developing microfluidic and imaging tools to visualize the spatial disruptions that diarrhea imposes on the bacteria in the gut. These tools will allow me to determine how these disruptions happen and to measure the influence of these microscopic spatial disruptions on the microbial communities we measure from poops (the gut microbiota).”
Scientifically, Nguyen hopes the work supported by this fellowship can demonstrate how the spatial organization of individual gut bacteria impacts how gut communities resist or are altered by environmental perturbations. This could provide one of the first causal mechanisms explaining how the microbiome of a healthy gut can shift to one that looks chronically ill.
Nguyen also shares that being a scientist has not only helped her grow as both a scientist and a person, but it has brought her some of her closest friends.
“Personally, I hope that this support enables me to make yet another great set of lasting friendships, to emit more laughs than tears, and to gain a bunch of confidence for what comes next.”