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Kathleen Garber

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

B.S., Franklin and Marshall College
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin – Madison
Postdoctoral work., Indiana University

Programs: Chemistry

My research and teaching interests straddle the fields of organic chemistry and chemical biology. My formal education was in organic chemistry, which I love because, once you learn the rules, it comprises the use of logic to solve puzzles. In my research, I get to apply my knowledge of organic chemistry to interesting biological problems, which really is the best of both worlds! I have tailored my research program to working with undergraduates and in the lab I enjoy teaching organic and biochemical techniques as well as the scientific process in general.

My research is focused on alleviating the problem of antibiotic resistance through the development of potential new antibiotics, both through the discovery of new drugs and in the identification of new drug targets. In the search for new antimicrobial compounds, we are exploring a class of organism called endophytes, which are bacteria and fungi that colonize the interior organs of a plant without causing detrimental effects to the host. While not always the case, colonization of host plants by endophytes is often beneficial to the host. One of the ways in which endophytes can benefit their hosts is through the production of molecules that protect the plant against pathogens, including bacteria. Therefore, by studying new endophytic species and the small molecules they produce, we seek to discover new antibiotic compounds. This project involves collection trips to local nature preserves to locate and harvest plants and their endophytes. In the lab we use microbiological techniques to grow the endophytes as well as organic chemistry techniques to extract and purify the bioactive molecules from the endophytes.

In the search for new drug targets, we are focusing on a class of enzymes called kinases, which are responsible for protein phosphorylation. Recent studies have shown a link between the activity of bacterial kinases and the signaling processes necessary for activating bacterial virulence factors. Virulence factors are a broad class of biological molecules produced by bacteria that are essential for host infection but not necessarily for bacterial survival. Most current antibiotics target processes within the bacteria that are necessary for bacterial growth and survival, placing a large evolutionary pressure on the bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. The benefit of targeting bacterial virulence as an antibiotic development strategy is that it would place less selective pressure on bacteria, slowing the development of resistance, while still preventing infection of the host. In order to discover new potential antibiotic targets, we need to be able to identify the kinases involved in bacterial virulence signaling. To do this, we use biochemical techniques to label, isolate, and characterize kinases that become active only in virulent bacteria.

I am married and have a son, Nathan. In my free time I love hanging out with my family and two dogs and cats. I also enjoy running, playing ultimate frisbee, gardening, camping, canoeing and just generally being outdoors.

Courses
CHEM 220 Organic Chemistry
CHEM 222 Organic Chemistry: Intermediate
CHEM 350 Biochemistry