About Me

I am a PhD candidate in Charles Mitchell’s lab, in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My work broadly integrates ecological and evolutionary biology methods to better understand the consequences of within-host microbial interactions on disease. In particular, my research addresses how microbial interactions shape plant parasite growth and replication within individual plants and structures of populations of parasites within multiple plants. I emphasize that an understanding of plastic and genetic responses is critical at two key levels: the parasite individual and the parasite population. I address these questions experimentally by studying responses of a focal plant pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, to microbial interactions within its grass host, tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus).

In addition to being a researcher, I am also a dedicated teacher and science communicator, as I feel strongly that it is integral that scientists communicate their findings broadly. I have developed lesson plans based on my research interests that fit NC science teaching standards, and I have been involved in the organization of a yearly science communication workshop for graduate students. I am eager to connect with the larger NC community, so please check back for updates and certainly, reach out with any comments or questions!


Research Background

I got my biology degree in 2012 from Amherst College, where I worked with Jill Miller studying mating system evolution in island and mainland populations of Lycium carolinianum for my honors thesis. I studied how allelic diversity at a gene that is part of the mechanism that determines the ability of a plant to self-fertilize varied among populations that were and were not self-compatible.

During the summer of 2012, I worked in the Vector-Borne Disease Lab at the Yale School of Public Health under Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser. Our summer field work aimed to quantify the density of deer ticks in eastern Connecticut. Additionally, with samples collected from each of our field sites, we determined the prevalence of disease-causing bacteria within the surveyed tick populations.

From 2012-2014, I worked as the research technician of the Obesity/Metabolism lab under Dr. Andrew Greenberg at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston, Massachusetts. Research projects in the lab aimed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying obesity and obesity-related complications. I was involved in projects using mouse models to understand proteins/mechanisms that regulate the cellular trafficking, storage and metabolism of fatty acids and lipid metabolism.


3 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Kayleigh,
    II would love to talk to you about coming to talk to my English 105i: Writing in the Natural Sciences class this semester. My cell phone number is (919) 323-2671. I think the students would love to hear your perspectives on writing.

    Margaret O’Shaughnessey


  2. Hi, Kayleigh!
    I found you via the GSA website, as I’m beginning a novel that explores genetic manipulation, and I am beginning to do some research. I’m really glad to find you, and excited to spend some time poking around your website. Thanks for building it!


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