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Who are the people in the Waters Lab?

Chris Waters-PI,

I now spend most of my days writing grants and manuscripts and teaching microbial genetics. But occasionally I get into the lab to do the various odd job.

Life Outside the Lab: spending time with my family, coaching my kid's sports teams, taking care of our black lab puppy, anything outdoors, playing basketball, watching sports, and cheering for the Kansas Jayhawks!!!


Eric Bruger-graduate student

Bacteria, once considered asocial organisms, are now recognized to ubiquitously utilize means of communication, such as quorum sensing, and participate in many social behaviors, which pose a challenge for evolutionary biology to explain.  Why should an individual participate in a behavior that is costly but may benefit individuals other than itself?  Moreover, quorum sensing and other cooperative behaviors may be susceptible to cheaters that gain benefits from a behavior without contributing the corresponding costs.  What gives rise to and maintains networks that are robust or susceptible to disruption are central focuses in my research.  A good deal of evolutionary theory for cooperation has been developed, which I will utilize to guide and compare my experiments.  I also intend to investigate how quorum sensing dynamics compare to other empirically-studied social behaviors

In my hypothetical free time, I enjoy  running, reading, promoting (open ) science, consuming stimulants and depressants (primarily in the form of coffee and midwest microbrews), eating good food, listening to (and failing to reproduce) good music, watching bad movies, and contemplating schemes for world domination with family and friends.


Nico Fernandez-graduate student

Nico's research, in collaboration with Vaughn Cooper, at the Unviersity of New Hampshire, is trying to understand how the GGDEF/EAL hybrid protein YciR enables Burkholderia to evolve during selection for biofilm formation. Nico is also exploring novel phenotypes in Vibrio cholerae controlled by c-di-GMP.



Meng Hsieh-DO/PhD graduate student

C-di-GMP is a second messenger that is present in most bacteria and is involved in a variety of different behaviors including motility, biofilm formation, and virulence. It binds to an unprecendented range of effectors, enabling it to control diverse targets. Of these effectors, I am most interested in understanding how c-di-GMP interacts with transcriptional activators to modulate gene expression. On one hand, c-di-GMP binds to VpsR to activate biofilm formation while on the other hand, c-di-GMP binds to FlrA to inhibit motility. I hope to investigate these two different c-di-GMP-dependent transcriptional mechanisms at the molecular level.

In my free time, I like hanging out with friends, watching movies, shopping, baking, and travelling to different countries.


Alessandra Hunt-postdocotoral research associate

As a new member of the Waters Lab, I have been involved in testing novel small molecules to control biofilms in diverse medical applications. My work includes using existing high throughput methods as well as developing new ones to evaluate the impact of these compounds on biofilm formation by medically relevant microorganisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Additionally, I am developing an animal model to evaluate potential new treatments to biofilm-related diseases such as cystic fibrosis.


Michael Maiden-DO/PhD graduate student

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common life threatening genetic diseases in Caucasians, affecting approximately 10% of the United States population. The human pageoffthogens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are two leading causes of chronic infection in CF patients. Because these pathogens form biofilms and develop resistance to antibiotics, infections are refractory to treatment. Current treatments are costly, cultivate resistance, and pose other health risks associated with long-term use of antibiotics. My project has four goals seeks to identify anti-biofilm agent(s) that enhance biofilm killing by antibiotics and develop these as treatment for patients with CF.

In my free time I run long distance, go for long walks, train my dog Kennedy new tricks and spend a great deal of time napping with my three cats: Indy, Wiley, and Nagano.


Ben Pursley-graduate student

Cyclic dimeric guanosine monophoshate (c-di-GMP) is a bacterial second messenger molecule that has been implicated in the control of virulence, biofilm formation, motility, and cell cycle progression.  However, the regulatory mechanisms responsible for the transduction of this signal remain unclear, and few direct effectors have been identified.  Vibrio cholerae possesses two regulatory mRNA elements, both class-I c-di-CMP binding riboswitches, which are believed to play pivotal roles in this pathway.  One such element, the Vc2 riboswitch, resides upstream of the gene tfoY, a predicted transcriptional regulator of genetic competence.  My research seeks to determine the mechanism of the Vc2 riboswitch and its contribution to the c-di-GMP regulatory network. 

In my free time, if I am lucky enough to find any, I play racquetball, kickball, run 5K and up races, and ultimate frisbee.  Oh, and I'm also a total nerd who loves video games, superheros, and anime. 


Geoff Severin-graduate student

Geoff's project is focused on understanding how c-di-GMP controls transcription.

In my free time, I like hanging out with friends, watching movies, shopping, baking, and travelling to different countries.  


Rudy Sloup-graduate student

Biofilms are complex organizational structures that bacteria form to attach to surfaces. Bacteria in biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics and host defenses as well as physical removal. Biofilms cause biofouling and clogging of pipes in industry. Biofilms are also involved in bacterial infection and persistence in human health. I am investigating a novel role for the type 2 secretion system in biofilm formation and structure in Vibrio cholerae. I am also looking into how quorum sensing may regulate type 2 secretion.   In addition I am searching for novel compounds which inhibit biofilm formation for applications in industry and medicine using high throughput screening procedures. I am especially interested in those that do so by affecting cyclic-di-GMP production.


John Shook-graduate student

Our laboratory has identified a novel promoter in the middle of the operon encoding the Type Two Secretion System of Vibrio cholerae. I am developing genetic approaches to identify regulators of this promoter. We have also identified a HD-GYP that is induced by bile. I am following preliminary results that suggest this regulation is mediated by the virulence regulator, ToxR.



Will Soto-BEACON Distinguished postdocotoral research associate

Understanding how cooperative behavoirs evolve has always been a major question of evolutionary theory. Natural selection of the fittest individuals simply predicts that non-cooperator cells who share in the benefits of cooperation but do not pay the cost would be favored. As a BEACON funded postdoc, I am using bioluminescent Vibrio harveyi to study the evolution and maintenance of two cooperative behavoirs: cell-cell communication known as quorum sensing and biofilm formation.


Jake Gibson-undergraduate student

Jake is a Beckman scholar who is seeking to understand the role of bacterial biofilms in infectious disease. Jake is studying two model systems, biofilm formation in cystic fiborsis patients and diabetic mouse models.



Charnay Gloss-undergraduate student

Charnay is determining the activity of novel antimicrobial small molecules to kill biofilms.


Cassie Larivee-undergraduate student

Cassie is working with Alessandra to develop a mouse model of diabetic chronic wounds.


Morgan Miller-undergraduate student

Morgan is working with Geoff to understand how cyclic nucleotides regulate growth in Vibrio cholerae.


Jenny Nyberg-undergraduate student

Jenny is working with Disha to determine how c-di-GMP controls transcription in Vibrio cholerae.



Chris Rhoades-undergraduate student

Chris is working with Geoff to explore how cyclic nucleotide signaling controls motility in Vibrio cholerae.


Mitch Zachos-undergraduate student

Mitch is working with Alessandra to understand the impact of biofilm formation and chemical signaling in the healing of diabetic chronic wounds.



Lab Alumni


Natasha Vukov-2010

Karthik Sambanthamoorthy-2011


Graduate Students

Adam Edmunds, M.S.-2011

Disha Srivastava, Ph.D.-2014

Ben Koestler, Ph.D.-2014


Undergraduate Students

David Szandzik-2009

Carolyn Chan-2011

Megan Hull-2011

Kuenyoun Jang-2011

Jon Massie-2012

Amanda Ngouajio-2012

Lauren Priniski-2012

Ashley Konal-2012

Alani Adkins-2012

Jessica Hunter-2013

Evan Reynolds-2013

Sarah Smaga-2013

Josh Smith-2013

Mark Johnson-2013

Melanie Callaghan-2013

Prateek Garg-2013

Rachel Rudlaff-2014

Zamone Sawyer-2014

Kevin Baker-2015

Markus Sievertsen-2015

Katherine Magoulick-2015



High School Students

Maurice Wilkins-2013

Gucci Fan-2015


Visiting Scholars

Ann-Katrin Kieninger, Germany-2015