Graduate Student Profiles

Paula Dalcin Martins | Research Interest: Microbial communities that drive sulfur and carbon cycling in lacustrine sediments 


I am from south Brazil and was born in a small city named Cruz Alta, which is about 6 hours from Argentina. When I was 18-years old I moved to the capital of my state, Porto Alegre, to study at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, where I got both my bachelor's degree in Biomedicine and my master's degree in Agricultural and Environmental Microbiology. During this time, I spent 5 years in Dr. Ana Paula Frazzon and Dr. Sueli Van der Sand's lab, initially with an undergraduate scholarship and later with a master's degree fellowship from CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development). In their lab I confirmed I wanted to study microbiology for life - I identified my passion for microbiology when I was a kid, somehow - and decided to get my PhD degree in the United States.


In 2013 I started the doctoral program and later joined Dr. Michael Wilkins' lab. I honestly couldn’t be more thankful and happier to be where I am, teaching microbiology to undergraduates, doing the research I am doing, and working with my colleagues and advisor. My project required me to travel a couple of times to Jamestown, North Dakota, and to learn how to paddle a boat and sample lake sediments from it using a piston corer (quite a skill) - not to mention dealing with wildlife and the cold weather. In the lab, I have learned a suite of techniques that include bioinformatics tools to analyze 16S rRNA gene sequences, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, geochemical assays, experiments with radioactivity to measure sulfate reduction rates, and nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry data. I love this variety of analysis! You never get bored.


I started the graduate program thinking about a carrier in industry, but I was not sure what I wanted to do after. Now I have decided I want to stay in academia and be a Principal Investigator, and I trust the training I am receiving will allow me get there!



Katie Huening | Research Interest: Proteins essential to methanogenesis and pyrrolysine, the 22nd amino acid


I am from the Cincinnati area and I earned my B.S. from The Ohio State University. While I was an undergraduate, I became interested in doing research so I began to work in Dr. Tabita's lab. I used random mutagenesis to identify important regions of RubisCO which led to studying subunit interactions. Because of my strong interest in research, I decided to stay here in order to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology. I chose this university due to its diverse faculty and research as well as numerous resources available to help graduate students.

As a graduate student, I joined Dr. Krzycki's lab in the Spring of 2013. Since joining this lab, I have been working to characterize RamA, a protein that plays a key role in methanogenesis and belongs to a group of electron transfer proteins of which very little is known. In this lab, we study proteins essential to methanogenesis and pyrrolysine, the 22nd amino acid.


Alan Kessler | Research Interest: tRNA nucleotide modification in the parasite Trypanosoma brucei


I was raised in a small town in Pennsylvania where I became interested in many areas of science. I narrowed this interest down to Biology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I received my Bachelor of Science. As an undergraduate, I partook in research ranging from field biology to molecular biology. After working on a project involving an RNA virus, I reached the conclusion that I wanted to pursue graduate school and study RNA biology. The outstanding RNA work being done at The Ohio State University is one major reason I decided to join the Microbiology program.

After doing my lab rotations as a first year graduate student I joined Dr. Juan Alfonzo’s lab studying tRNA nucleotide modification in the parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Nucleotide modification is the chemical addition of function groups, ranging from simple methylations to more complex side chains, to specific nucleotides in RNA molecules. I am currently studying one named Queuosine for its unique impact it may have on T. brucei. While working on this project I have had the opportunity to collaborate with various labs, both within and outside of OSU, using a variety of cutting edge techniques. My experience overall at OSU has taught me greatly about science and how to be a successful scientist. I’m confident the training and guidance I received here will help me pursue my career in science. 

Emily Lundstedt | Research Interest: Peptidoglycan biogenesis in Gram-negative organisms


Before starting grad school in at The Ohio State University I had lived in New Hampshire my whole life. I completed my B.S. in Medical Microbiology at The University of New Hampshire. While completing my degree, I was fortunate enough to secure a position in a lab and explore my love of research. I worked in Dr. Louis Tisa’s lab for several years studying the symbiotic relationships between actinorhizal plants and nitrogen fixing actinobacteria. My combined biomedical and environmental microbiology background drew me to OSU, where I could explore either area of microbiology in in this diverse department and pursue my passion for research.

I started graduate school at OSU in 2015 and was able to explore biochemical, genetic, and ecological approaches to microbiology throughout my rotations. I joined Dr. Natacha Ruiz’s lab that spring. In the Ruiz lab we use a genetic approach to study biogenesis of the cell envelope in Gram-negative bacteria using the model organism Escherichia coli. Specifically, my research focuses on MurJ, an essential enzyme in peptidoglycan (PG) biogenesis. MurJ is the flippase that translocates the PG precursor, Lipid II, across the inner membrane and into the periplasm where it undergoes transglycosylation and transpeptidation to become mature PG. I’m interested in understanding the mechanism by which MurJ flips lipid II and elucidating how it functions in the cell.