POSTDOC SPOTLIGHT

Dr. Samantha Bell
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis & Immunology

   My passion as a scientist is to eliminate tuberculosis, a deadly and prevalent bacterial infection. I study how the immune system responds to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes the disease, so that we can develop better treatments. Tuberculosis kills 1-2 million people every year worldwide, more than any other infectious disease. As a result, it is a major public health concern. Treating the infection requires a cocktail of expensive and toxic drugs for a minimum of 6 months, so tuberculosis also causes a substantial economic burden. More importantly, antibiotic resistance is becoming more common and few backup treatment options exist. Through my research, I aim to identify novel approaches for treating for tuberculosis and other bacterial infections.

 

   Since college, I’ve been fascinated by infectious diseases. As an undergraduate researcher in the Brodsky lab at the University of Pittsburgh, I studied malarial proteins and became interested in understanding how microbes interact with the hosts they’ve infected. For graduate school, I joined the Cox lab at the University of California, San Francisco and fell in love with studying intracellular bacterial pathogens - bacteria that can live and divide inside host cells. Now, as a postdoc, my passion is dissecting the biology of the “arms race” between bacterial pathogens and their hosts: how pathogens evade robust host defenses and how hosts counter these strategies to prevent or resolve infections.

   As a postdoc in the Patrick/Watson lab, I take an interdisciplinary approach using cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, immunology, and bacterial genetics to study host-pathogen interactions during Mtb infection. The interplay between Mtb and the immune system is intricate and complex, so it offers a unique opportunity to probe host immune responses and mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. Ultimately, by learning the detailed mechanisms of these interactions, we hope to identify new host targets that can be used for the development of host-directed therapies to treat Mtb. These types of host-directed therapies overcome the obstacle of antibiotic resistance by attacking Mtb infections from a different angle - treating the host to help the immune system better do its job of fighting infection.

   Outside of lab, I am a founding executive member of the TAMU Postdoc Association, where I have served as the Treasurer, Events Chair, and now the Vice President. In these roles, I have worked with the PDA and its committees to promote postdoc visibility and advocate for postdoc resources. My focuses as a leader in the PDA have been to build a social community of postdocs through professional and personal activities and to identify gaps in postdoc training and provide critical professional development opportunities. I also enjoy running half marathons, doing yoga, and listening to podcasts.

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