Meet postdoctoral fellow Katherine Pflaum

Katie Pflaum
Katie Pflaum

When she completes her postdoctoral fellowship, Katherine Pflaum plans to pursue a university faculty position. She’s looking forward to teaching and continuing her research in the field of bacterial pathogenesis. When Pflaum first moved to Storrs from the Baltimore area to pursue her Ph.D. in pathobiology, it was an adjustment living in such a rural area, but after six years, she’s fallen in love with country life and can’t see herself returning to the city. Here’s what she said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major? I completed my undergraduate degree in biology at Salisbury University Salisbury, Maryland.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? As a child I always enjoyed science. Whether I was outside exploring nature or inside reading, I was always interested in science. As I got older, I really enjoyed science class and labs in school and became very interested in infectious disease. As an undergraduate at Salisbury University, I had the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research and take a variety of biology classes. It was through these experiences that I learned I wanted to pursue the education necessary for a career in academia. I earned my master’s degree in cell/molecular biology at Towson University, in Towson, Maryland. As I was working on my master’s degree, I had the opportunity to TA several microbiology lab sections, from which I learned that I did indeed enjoy teaching as well as research and wanted to pursue my Ph.D. and a career in academia.

Who is your advisor? What is your field of research? My advisor is Dr. Steve Geary.

Our lab studies pathogenic Mycoplasmas, a group of atypical bacteria that cause disease in humans, animals, and plants. My main project has been trying to understand the early changes in gene expression of the poultry pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum during infection in the natural host. The ultimate goal of this project is to gain an understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis and colonization of M. gallisepticum with a focus on vaccine development.

Name one aspect of your work that you like. I love being in the lab. My favorite aspect is that I have the ability to come up with a question, design an experiment to be able to answer that question and conduct the experiment. I love that I can follow a specific idea from inception to completion.

In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far? Successfully writing a USDA/NIFA postdoc grant and obtaining my own source of funding.

When do you expect to finish your postdoc? What then? I will be finishing up my post-doc at the end of December. I am hoping to eventually find a faculty position after that.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I love to be outside anytime I get a chance. On the weekends I am usually outside hiking, camping or just enjoying the outdoors.

By Kim Colavito Markesich