News

December 2023 | Undergrad researchers receive UROP funding!

Jenny Geng and Faduma Mohamed both received UROP awards to fund their undergrad research.  We are so proud of you both!  Congrats, Jenny and Faduma!

October 2023 | Welcome to our new rotation student!

Lauren Kress joins us from the Oral Biology DDS/PhD program for a rotation.  Welcome, Lauren!

October 2023 | Happy Halloween!

These Barbies had a great time at the DMI/MRF Halloween Party!

October 2023 | Willett Lab attends MMPC!

Ruth and Amanda presented their posters on bacterial competition mechanisms and E. faecalis clinical isolates at the Midwest Microbial Pathogenesis Conference in Chicago, IL.  It was a fun time science-ing and sightseeing.  Great job on the posters!

September 2023 | Willett Lab attends ICE-6!

Ethan, Amanda, and Julia attended the 6th International Conference on Enterococci in beautiful Porto, Portugal!  Julia and Ethan gave talks, and Amanda presented a poster of her work on E. faecalis clinical isolates.  A week well spent with friends and colleagues!

August 2023 | IRACDA postdoc fellowship!

Our postdoc Dr. Ruth Isenberg was recently awarded a spot in the University of Minnesota's IRACDA training program!  Congratulations, Ruth!

August 2023 | Welcome to our new rotation student!

Gabi Farulla-Bastian joins us as a rotation student in the Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology PhD program.  Welcome, Gabi!

August 2023 | Welcome to our new postdoc!

Dr. Ruth Isenberg, PhD joins us as a postdoc!  Ruth recently earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin, where she studied host-microbe interactions using the Vibrio-squid model system.

August 2023 | Welcome to our new lab tech!

Emily Carson joins us as a technician!  Emily previously did undergrad research on biofilms at St. Olaf and earned an MS in Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt.  

August 2023 | Willett Lab attends phage meeting!

Alex Snell presented a poster on his work on how arginine affects E. faecalis growth and biofilm formation at the Molecular Genetics of Bacteria and Phage Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin.  Great job, Alex!

August 2023 | New publication on replication of arrayed libraries

Our work on replicating the E. faecalis OG1RF arrayed Tn library is now published in Microbiology Spectrum.  Check it out!

May 2023 | T32 in Genetics & Genomics!

First-year MICaB graduate student Amanda Haeberle was awarded a spot on the Genetics & Genomics Predoctoral Training Program.  Congratulations, Amanda!

April 2023 | CBS Undergraduate Research Symposium

Jenny Geng presented a poster at the CBS Undergraduate Research Symposium.  She is doing great work studying E. faecalis growth and biofilm formation in wound conditions.  Great job, Jenny!

April 2023 | New preprint on replicating arrayed libraries

We recently posted a preprint detailing our replication of the E. faecalis arrayed transposon mutant library originally developed by Gary Dunny's lab.  Developing methods for replication and maintenance of large biological collections such as this library is essential for ensuring long-term quality and also increasing accessibility of these mutants.  We were excited to share so many copies of this resource with others in the scientific community and hope that the set of best practices we developed is useful for other researchers in the future!

April 2023 | Welcome to our new undergrad researcher!

Sarah Zar joins us as a new undergraduate researcher!  Welcome, Sarah!

April 2023 | Welcome to our new undergrad researcher!

Faduma Mohamed joins us for a 5-week rotation as part of the Minnesota Biomedical Undergraduate Research Program!

April 2023 | 2023 Biofilm & Microbial Communities Symposium

The group had a great time at this year's Biofilm & Microbial Communities Symposium hosted by the UMN Biofilm & Microbial Communities Club.  Amanda and Jenny gave great poster presentations on their work on E. faecalis clinical isolates and simulated in vivo growth conditions.  Congratulations to Amanda for taking home the third place poster prize!

March 2023 | Bowling and a blizzard

The group braved a springtime snowstorm for a fun evening of bowling!

March 2023 | Welcome to our new lab tech!

Alex Snell joins us as a lab technician!

March 2023 | Welcome to our new undergrad researcher!

Celine Sackih joins us for a 5-week rotation as part of the Minnesota Biomedical Undergraduate Research Program!

January 2023 | Welcome to our first MICaB rotation student!

Amanda Haeberle joins us for a rotation as part of the MICaB PhD program!

January 2023 | The Willett Lab is officially open!

We can't wait to get started!

August 2022 | Welcome to our new undergrad researchers!

This month we are delighted to welcome Kelli Vasek and Jenny Geng, both undergrads at UMN, to the group!

June 2022 | New publication in the Journal of Bacteriology

Check out our new paper (The Phosphatase Bph and Peptidyl-Prolyl Isomerase PrsA Are Required for Gelatinase Expression and Activity in Enterococcus faecalis), now published in the Journal of Bacteriology!  Here, we update the decades-old model for regulation of the virulence factor gelatinase (GelE) by the Fsr quorum sensing system.  We found 2 new ways E. faecalis regulates gelatinase expression and activity:  1) the biofilm-associated phosphatase Bph (function previously described by us) is required for expression of the fsr genes, and 2) the peptidyl-isomerase PrsA is required for GelE activity but not gene expression.  Our former undergrad and current lab tech Ethan Robertson contributed some amazing experiments to this work!

May 2022 | The Willett Lab is coming soon to the University of Minnesota!

In January 2023, the Willett Lab will officially open their doors in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Minnesota Medical School!  I am excited to keep working with the tremendous friends and colleagues I have made during my time as a postdoc here.  Our lab will study two primary research interests:  1) functional genomics of uncharacterized bacterial genes (the "dark matter" of bacteria) and 2) polymicrobial antagonism and competition.  We will soon be recruiting people at all levels (undergrads, lab techs, lab manager, grad students, and postdocs) -- stay tuned!

October 2021 | mBio Early Career Researcher Reviewer Program/Junior Editorial Board

I am happy to share that I was selected to join the inaugural group of early career researchers on the mBio Junior Editorial Board through the mBio Early Career Researcher Reviewer Program!  I deeply believe in the importance of scientific societies, society journals, and the need to provide structured mentoring and training on peer review and publishing.  I am excited to work with this new group of colleagues over the next 2 years!

August 2021 | NIH NIAID K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award

I am thrilled to have been awarded a K99 from NIH!  This will allow me to develop new tools to identify the function of uncharacterized bacterial genes on a genome-wide scale (hundreds to thousands of genes simultaneously).  This approach will be used to identify mechanisms governing interactions between Gram-positive pathogens such as Enterococcus and StreptococcusRead more about this award on NIH RePORTER.

June 2021 | New publication in mBio!

Our new publication (Comparative Biofilm Assays Using Enterococcus faecalis OG1RF Identify New Determinants of Biofilm Formation) is out today in mBio!  We used TnSeq to identify mutants with defects in biofilm formation in vitro, then explored the changes in biofilm morphologies caused by disrupting 6 different genes.  These results expand our understanding of the genetic requirements for biofilm formation in E. faecalis that affect the time course of biofilm development as well as the response to specific nutritional conditions.  I am especially proud of the contributions by two phenomenal trainees:  Lucy Kwiatkowski (former Dunny lab undergrad/lab tech, currently a grad student at U Washington Microbiology) and Rhea Kohli (former Dunny lab undergrad).