McKenzie is a senior microbiology student working on her honors thesis. Her project focuses on studying diguanylate cyclase genes in Mycobacterium haemophilum—the closest cousin to Mycobacterium leprae that can be cultured in vitro that also happens to share three diguanylate cyclase genes with M. leprae. Diguanylate cyclase produces the second messenger cyclic diguanylate monophosphate (cyclic-di-GMP), which allows other genera of bacteria to generate biofilms. To study the phenotype controlled by these three genes, she is conducting gene knockouts as well as gene knockdowns, utilizing CRISPR for the latter. As part of this project, she is working on creating hyper-transformable strains of M. haemophilum that transform with higher efficiency and conducting whole-genome sequencing of these strains to determine what makes them more transformable. She is scheduled to graduate in the Fall of 2020.
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