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CIE Researcher of Distinction, October 2013

Cindy Thomas-CharlesCTC

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Cafe series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of their journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Cindy Thomas-Charles, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Genetics. Cindy presented her talk, "De-bugging the Liver: Interactions between F. tularensis and Hepatocytes" on Thursday, October 10. 

Cindy's Background 

High school was an amazing learning experience for me. It was the period of my life that I spent exploring all of my academic interests, and there were many. Interestingly enough, during that period, I was convinced that I would be satisfied with nothing less than a career in Earth Sciences. Needless to say, that is no longer the case, although I still find that area of study quite fascinating. Overall, the teachers I was lucky to encounter while in high school encouraged me to explore every option. Those options also included biology, a subject I immediately liked. I was also one of two students selected to represent our school in a national science fair. That experience was quite memorable, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, for me it was a turning point. 

I moved from Guyana to the United States in 2004, where I enrolled at Nassau Community College and majored in liberal arts, math, and science. While there, I was inducted into the Omicron Sigma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two-year schools. In 2005 I participated in the NIH-funded BioPREP program at Stony Brook University. This internship allowed me to explore basic research in a manner that I had not previously attempted. In 2006, I graduated with an Associate of Science degree from Nassau Community College and immediately transferred to Stony Brook University to complete my undergraduate education. During that time, I became involved in undergraduate research with Dr. Anne Savitt, through the AGEP-SRI. In April 2008 I was featured as undergraduate researcher of the month by URECA. Prior to completing my undergraduate degree, I was selected to participate in the Howard Hughes Exceptional Research Opportunities Program. Through that fellowship I conducted research in Denver, Colorado, with Dr. Philippa Marack and Dr. John Kappler. I graduated from Stony Brook University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree.

I joined the graduate program in genetics at Stony Brook University in 2008, and subsequently joined the laboratory of Dr. Martha B. Furie. While a graduate student, I have been involved in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. I was also recently awarded the W. Burghardt Turner Dissertation Fellowship. Additionally, I am an active member of the American Society for Investigative Pathology, where I currently serve on their membership committee and am co-editor of the trainee newsletter. 

Cindy's Current Research 

Describe the work you will be presenting for your Research Café.

At the Research Café I will discuss a study that investigated iron uptake by F. tularensis. In this study, which was recently published in the journal Infection and Immunity, we determined that the FeoB protein mediates uptake of iron by this pathogen.

Are there any other projects that you are currently working on?

I have also done considerable work investigating the mechanisms that facilitate the uptake of F. tularensis by hepatocytes. Additionally, I have completed detailed studies of the immune response that is produced by hepatocytesinfected with F. tularensis. 

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

The research I completed while an undergraduate at Stony Brook University was very important in my decision to return for my graduate studies. Of equal importance was the financial and academic support provided by the NIH-funded Bridges to the Doctorate fellowship, which I received prior to beginning graduate school.

What are your future goals?

I would eventually like to conduct research in an institution, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that allows my work to have a broad impact. Ideally, my future work will have a translational component.

What do you enjoy most about research?

I am naturally quite a curious individual. Research has been a great way for me to satisfy that natural curiosity, while having the reassurance that my work is important. I hope that my efforts will one day have a positive impact on the understanding and treatment of bacterial pathogens, especially those that affect the liver.