Tonya Watkins, Ph.D.

Tonya Watkins

Molecular Medicine

Area of Doctoral Study: Molecular Medicine

Undergraduate Institute: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Graduate Institute: Johns Hopkins University

Research Advisor: Vincent Bruno, Ph.D.

Description of Research

Candida albicans, the most common human fungal pathogen, asymptomatically colonizes the skin and mucosal surfaces of most individuals. However, C. albicans is also an opportunistic pathogen which can cause infections, ranging from superficial skin to systemic and life-threatening, in immunocompromised patients.

My lab utilizes genomic and genetic approaches to identify and characterize genes and pathways that govern the interaction between host and fungal pathogen. Specifically, my research focuses on characterizing the host-pathogen interaction using RNA-seq to simultaneously examine the transcriptional response of both the host and C. albicans in the context of infection. Once key genes are identified by RNA-seq, I will determine the effects of deletion or silencing of these genes on the host-pathogen interaction in the context of infection. Identification of pathways and genes that are important for this interaction is a necessary first step towards identifying novel therapeutic targets.