Graduate Student Profile - Cooper Park

Cooper Park, MS Student

Microbiology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Cheryl Andam

Research Topic: Determine the distribution and origin of accessory genes found in Streptomyces that are associated with different species of earthworm

Horizontal Gene Transfer(HGT) is a major driver of evolution in the natural world and is a player in many of the "microbial headaches" we face today such as antibiotic resistance.  Recent pan-genome studies have shown that even bacteria identical in taxonomic identification can have almost entirely unique genomes, and it is believed this is largely due to the effect of HGT. The genus Streptomyces produces the majority of our commonly used antibiotics and is a point of continuous research for new antibiotics as well. However, we are not the only ones to take advantage of Streptomyces' antibiotic capabilities. Earthworms have developed a mutualistic relationship with these bacteria to produce antibiotics in the earthworm's gut that act as an immune system for the earthworm. My project will isolate, sequence, and characterize the diversity of the Streptomyces found in the guts of closely related earthworms that each have a unique ecological niche. Understanding the genetic diversity of these bacteria will allow us to explore the potential HGT and environmental factors that drive such diverse genetic changes in taxonomically identical bacteria.

Hobbies: I am a classic nerd that relaxes with a long night of video games. But I also hike, run, and practice archery!

Why I chose UNH: Moving from Utah to New Hampshire could not have been a bigger change in environment, but UNH has made it home. From a personal perspective, I love the natural beauty of the area, and UNH's commitment to maintaining it. From a professional perspective, UNH continues to bring new ideas, people, and technology to their campus to keep them front and center in academic research. My interests in bioinformatics and computer science can be integrated into my passion for Biology thanks to the efforts of the academic community here on campus.