Tropini lab Postdoc Dr. Jen Nguyen has won a prestigious UBC Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.
The $50,000 award stipend can be stretched over two years. Having arrived in Dr. Tropini’s lab in the LSI in January 2021, Nguyen has been examining the spatial structure of microbial habitats and how they affect the behaviour and function of individual bacterial cells.
“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,” Nguyen told Laryssa Vachon, communications coordinator for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She plans to put the fellowship towards demonstrating 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 a chronically unhealthy state.
Three to five UBC Killam Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are provided annually from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies and are available for most fields of research. Those selected to receive fellowships have been identified as being “likely to contribute to the advancement of learning or to win distinction in a profession. A Killam scholar should not be a one-sided person… Special distinction of intellect should be founded upon sound character.”
Nguyen came to UBC following her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and years abroad at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, where her grad advisor Dr. Roman Stocker is currently based.
“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,” she added. “Carolina also has already created a lot of opportunity and inspiration for me. I feel super lucky to have met her.”
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 said. “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).
“Personally,” she added, “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.”
This story appeared originally on the Department of Microbiology and Immunology website. This version includes additional information, with edits to the original text.