Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Alisa King

Mary Gates Research Scholar, 2022-2023

Research Project: The Impact of Lipid A Structure on Porphyromonas gingivalis Outer Membrane Vesicles and Biofilm Morphology

Research Project Description: A keystone bacterium involved in the pathogenesis of chronic periodontitis, commonly known as gum disease, is Porphyromonas gingivalis. This pathogen has a variety of structures on its cell surface, like lipopolysaccharides. These structures are anchored to the outer membrane by Lipid A. P. gingivalis also produces outer membrane vesicles from its outer membrane. My project focuses on the relationship that Lipid A structure has on the cell’s ability to produce outer membrane vesicles as a delivery system within the host. I also investigate how P. gingivalis forms biofilm, and the impact that outer membrane vesicles have on its formation and morphology. Characterizing these virulence factors of P. gingivalis is important in understanding its pathogenesis in the host and its interactions with the immune system.

What advice do you have for future Mary Gates Research applicants?

Advice that I have for future applicants is to take this time to reach out of your comfort zone. Reach out to your professors, and talk with other undergraduate researchers, and even graduate students if able – to get an idea of what being involved in research is like and what is interesting to you. There is an unimaginable amount of projects you could work on, so develop a plan with your mentor, and take pride in your work!

What have you learned throughout your research project? 

During my research experience, I have gained a whole new perspective on what it means to be a scientist. I have been able to gain an invaluable skillset that is not exclusive to working at the bench, but deeper skills that will help me in my future academic and professional endeavors. Undergraduate research has helped me to become a better scientist and the challenging academic environment has fostered my critical thinking skills.