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WEISER LAB

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ABOUT OUR RESEARCH

The Weiser lab investigates the molecular basis of host-pathogen interaction for agents that reside in and infect the human respiratory tract. Most studies focus on the pathogenesis of Streptococcus pneumoniae because of its prominence as a cause of acute respiratory tract infection. Other pathogens under investigation in the laboratory have included Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Influenza A. Many projects focus on colonization of the mucosal surface of the upper airway, the initial step in the disease process. Both host and bacterial factors affecting colonization are under investigation. In general these studies utilize bacterial genetics to examine effects of specific microbial genes together with mouse models of colonization that allow for the use of genetically-modified hosts.

ONGOING PROJECTS

How colonizing microbes stimulate and evade innate and adaptive immune clearance mechanisms.


Mechanisms that facilitate interspecies competition within a host.


Mechanisms of competition between co-colonizing pneumococci.


Effects of influenza co-infection on bacterial colonization.


Pneumococcal interactions with neutrophils/macrophages and mechanisms to evade clearance by professional phagocytes.


The role of phosphorycholine, a surface constituent of many respiratory tract inhabitants, in pathogenesis.
Host and bacterial factors affecting shedding and host to host transmission.


Systemic effects on innate immunity of the colonizing flora (microbiota).

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SURYA AGGARWAL

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW

EDUCATION:

PhD in Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, 2020

I'M FROM: Punjab, India

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Understanding microbial and host factors that influence pneumococcal adaptation, colonization and transmission

FUN FACT:

I've lived on four continents.

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KRISTEN LOKKEN-TOYLI

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW

EDUCATION:

PhD in Microbiology, UC Davis

I'M FROM: Minnesota

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Elucidation of host factors that drive susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections in children; identification of age-related differences in mucosal defense mechanisms.

FUN FACT:

I had a fear of needles so I became a phlebotomist.

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MATTHEW MONTGOMERY

GRADUATE STUDENT

EDUCATION:

BS in Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh, 2015

I'M FROM: New Jersey

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Exploring the roles of Streptococcus pneumoniae produced neuraminidases with respect to upper respiratory tract colonization and transmission, as well as the host factors that respond to these enzymes' activities.

FUN FACT:

I once drove a forklift as an undergrad for some extra spending money.

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JIAQI "LUCAS" ZHU

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

EDUCATION:

BSc in Biology, Haverford College '22

I'M FROM:

Suzhou, China

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Investigating the role pneumococcal capsule plays in its colonization and transmission

FUN FACT:

I'm invested in a lot of things (I'm a classical guitarist-also a music minor as an undergrad, a soccer player, a not-so-bad cook, and a polyglot wannabe) but sort of a jack of all trades. 

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CHERN WEI 'GAVYN' BEE

GRADUATE STUDENT

EDUCATION:

BS in Biological Sciences, Cornell University ‘16

I'M FROM:  Penang, Malaysia

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Understanding how systemic innate immunity at different ages of an organism (i) is functionally primed and (ii) factors into microbial susceptibility.

FUN FACT:

Guess who’s a firstborn of his generation on both sides of the family? (Also, I love carrot juice with milk – it’s a popular drink from where I’m from! :P )

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SHEYA XIAO MA

GRADUATE STUDENT

EDUCATION:

ScM in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins University ‘20

I'M FROM: Taiyuan, China

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Understanding microbial factors that drive competition between co-colonizing pneumococci

FUN FACT:

I am a totally harmless peace lover addicted to perfect crime fiction and movies.

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MILA ORTIGOZA

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR 

EDUCATION:

Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai '11

Doctor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai '13

I'M FROM:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Understanding the biology of transmission of influenza virus and other respiratory pathogens.

FUN FACT:

I am a mother of 2 beautiful girls, and am a citizen of 3 countries.

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HANNES EICHNER

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW

EDUCATION:

MSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Bremen 2015
PhD in Medical Sciences, Karolinska Institutet 2021

I'M FROM: Leipzig, Germany

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Communications between molecular players within a cell (prokaryotic or eukaryotic) or between different cells and regulation of said communication.

FUN FACT:

The country I was born in, does not exist anymore. I also like food. A lot.

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CATHERINA MOBINI

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

EDUCATION:

BS in Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh ‘20

I'M FROM: Queens, New York

SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:

Understanding the mechanistic role of the upper respiratory tract microbiota in influenza virus transmission

FUN FACT:

I once won a hula hooping contest – last woman standing.

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JENNIFER PAGANO

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT 

EDUCATION:

BA in Pscyhology, UCONN

I'M FROM:

Originally from CT, but I consider myself a New Yorker by now :)

FUN FACT:

I was in commercials as a child, so there's a chance you've seen my younger self in a Nickelodeon or random toy ad. (shout out to all my millennials).