University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Katrina Jackson

Thesis Advisor:

Year entered: 2017

Degrees received:
B.S., Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, 2015



My research is focused on understanding the genetics and prevalence of fungal pathogens.  Cryptococcus neoformans is an opportunistic pathogen found worldwide.  C. neoformans causes cryptococcal meningitis in HIV/AIDS patients, accounting for half a million deaths annually in Africa.  Previous members of the Nielsen lab found a correlation between cryptococcal  MLST type and patient outcome.  Whole genome sequencing identified SNP differences in alleles between representative strains of these MLST subgroups.  My research is focused on determining which of these SNP differences are important in cryptococcal virulence.  I will use these findings to build a PCR based system to screen for these alleles  in a larger clinical strain set.   This data will allow us to predict patient outcome based on the allele variant.  

 Blastomyces dermatitidis is a primary fungal pathogen endemic to the Great Lakes region.  B. dermatitidis is rarely isolated from the environment, and its ecological niche is not well understood. Due to the difficulties of cultivating B. dermatitidis from the environment, we are using a culture independent method of detection to track B. dermatitidis prevalence in Minnesota.  Utilizing a combination of non-random samples taken from areas assumed to be in risk areas for B. dermatitidis , and random samples collected in three geographical regions of Minnesota, I will identify B. dermatitidis risk areas.  I plan to use this data to determine if there is ecological similarity between B. dermatitidis high risk areas to increase our understanding of this fungus' ecological niche and environmental presence.