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Madeline Mei is a PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology/Microbiology from Reinhardt University in 2016 and worked as a Chemical Technician for a materials testing firm before eventually joining the Diggle Lab at Georgia Tech in 2017. Madeline has experience in a wide range of disciplines including cell biology, analytical chemistry, materials testing, environmental testing, and microbiology. As a part of the Diggle Lab, Madeline studies microbial interactions and the resulting implications for infection.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pa) is a bacteria that can be found in many different environments, and can be particularly problematic in the infections of humans and animals. Pa is often already resistant to antibiotics before infection, but develops increasing resistance to multiple antibiotics over time during infection. This makes new treatment approaches necessary for use in chronic infections against Pa and other multi-drug resistant pathogens. Bacteriocins are narrow spectrum, antimicrobials produced by one strain of bacteria and active against other strains of the same species. Bacteriocins are produced by both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and have been studied for their production, function and possible applications in medical treatment. Pyocins are the bacteriocins specifically produced by Pa to kill other strains of Pa.
Madeline’s work specifically focuses on the R-type pyocins of P. aeruginosa, which are contractile particles similar in structure and killing mechanism to bacteriophage. Due to their specific anti-pseudomonal activity and similarity to bacteriophage, R-pyocins have potential as additional therapeutics for P. aeruginosa, but have not been studied in nearly as much detail as bacteriophage. Prior work in the Diggle Lab has shown that R-pyocins play a significant role in intra-species competition in biofilms of multiple P. aeruginosa strains. To continue this work, Madeline studies R-type pyocins and their impact on diverse P. aeruginosa populations, particularly those sourced from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with chronic lung infections. P. aeruginosa is the leading cause of death and a major determinant of declining lung function in individuals with CF, thus it is crucial to better understand potential alternative treatment. Madeline is working to unravel the regulation and receptors of R-pyocins to better understand their impact on the bacterial populations of chronic infections and facilitate more effective strategies for their use as an alternative therapy.
Outside of research, Madeline stays active in the Georgia Tech and CF communities. She has been a LEAD Fellow and Coach with the Leadership Education and Development Division of Student Life, as a mentor to 6 undergraduate students. Madeline also served 2 years as a Graduate Teaching Fellow with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) in which she helped lead the institute-wide TA Orientation, conducted numerous teaching observations, and developed a BioSci TA Resources Portal on Canvas for Graduate Teaching Assistants in the School of Biological Sciences. She recently completed the Tech to Teaching certification through CTL, during which she took on the role of Instructor of Record for an undergraduate laboratory course. She also serves as a Biology representative on the Graduate Student Diversity Council for the College of Sciences, to help improve recruitment, retention, and professional development opportunities for underrepresented minorities in the college. She has volunteered at several CF Foundation events and attends CF research events regularly as a CF Scholar with CF@LANTA. Her hobbies include making music, food, and gardening.