Georgetown Scientific Research Journal GSR Journal
Shaun Brinsmade, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Georgetown. He received his Bachelors of Science from the University of Connecticut in Storrs and his Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Brinsmade completed his Post-Doc at Tufts University School of Medicine.
Involvement in Research:
Dr. Brinsmade researches the way bacteria control the process of pathogenesis using nutritional and host cues during infection. This work has provided great insights into how to combat the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is known to cause numerous soft tissue infections in the body, such as osteomyelitis, bacteremia, and infectious heart disease. His lab uses the Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as Staph) bacteria, as it is one of the most common bacteria that infects the general population. Dr. Brinsmade is currently focusing on the way the bacteria respond to changes in the nutritional state of their environment, as this response plays an important role in the way the bacteria releases toxins. The protein CodY is used to control gene expression in the bacteria, which can suppress the ability of S. aureus to kill human neutrophils in the body. Currently, Dr. Brinsmade is working to determine which proteins cause the bacteria to release cytotoxins.
Dr. Brinsmade was inspired to pursue microbiology research when a professor he had while an undergraduate student announced that a faculty member was looking for researchers. At first, he was interested in working with X-ray crystallography along with studying the structure and function of enzymes. Later in his career, he decided to move into the field of microbiology through studying bacteria and microbes to learn more about biochemistry. He also mentioned that the lack of ethical concerns with manipulating bacteria was another point of interest.
Dr. Brinsmade made the analogy of working with bacteria as being like solving a complex puzzle; the combination of the inner workings and behavior of bacteria completes a bigger picture. He noted that the research can require perseverance and can be humbling at times, which makes it much more rewarding in the end.
Advice for Students:
Biology is a very vast field of science, so it is important to keep an open mind and to explore what’s out there by viewing a variety of talks and seminars. He noted that finding parallels in different scientific principles is a great way to help build one’s research-related skills. Also, Dr. Brinsmade encourages students to pick a field that will help build upon improving their thought processes through analytical thinking.
Written by Dilan Gangopadhyay