Latest News from the Lab

November 14, 2022

Congratulations, Reagan Hagewood!

I wanted to stop by and update you all about a former student who recently presented at the 2022 ABRCMS (Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists) in Anaheim, California.

Reagan worked in the Rollins Smith Lab in the summer of 2022 as part of the Aspirnaut Program.  Her research examined the dynamics of Bd and Bsal co-infection in an in vitro system.  Reagan has excellent lab skills, she is highly motivated, and she possesses a great deal of passion for science.  She presented her work at ABCRMS last week (November 9-12), and her presentation WON IN HER DISCIPLINE!  We are so proud of her and delighted to hear this!  Actually, this comes as no surprise; Reagan has a lot of talent and a very bright future ahead of her.  The judges even noted that Reagan’s “love for research radiated as she presented.” 

Again, congratulations, Reagan, for this well-deserved honor!


Reagan Hagewood presenting at 2022 ABRCMS

October 24, 2022

Happy Fall from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone is enjoying this lovely fall season!  While it’s been incredibly dry in Nashville over the last several weeks, we are still seeing some pretty fall color.  The temperatures have also been a bit all over the place, but on the whole, I think we’ve really had some nice fall weather despite a few extremes here and there.  But such is life in Nashville, and if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

First things first! 

We are excited to welcome back Dr Emily Hall!  She moved to a new post doctoral position at Temple University in the summer of 2021 but has now returned to the Rollins-Smith Lab as a Research Assistant Professor as of this month.  Dr Hall will focus her work on our recently created and funded Biology Integration Institute (BII): “Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research (RIBBiTR)" project. The institute encompasses nine academic institutions and thirteen senior investigators using field and laboratory studies to investigate how amphibian species are developing long term resistance to the fungal disease chytridiomycosis that has caused decades-long declines in amphibian populations around the world.   

What a hectic year!

We've had a lot going on in 2022 and things are now quieting down in the lab.  Back in the spring, we hosted three undergraduate Vanderbilt students as part of our mentorship work required by the Biology Integration Institute (BII).  Mentorship and outreach programs are a critical aspect of the institute’s mission, and we are always excited to help train young scientists. These ladies learned a lot of lab techniques and seemed to have a good experience in our lab. 

Laura Reinert, Dr Rollins-Smith, and Dr Hall traveled to Pymatuning Field Station in Pennsylvania in early April as part of a BII/RIBBiTR workshop.  It was an incredibly productive week where we all gathered to not only brainstorm and iron out technical protocols, but to actually teach and learn many of these techniques.  The BII team is an incredibly dynamic and energetic collection of scientists who work extremely well with one another. Many of the PIs have collaborated for decades, so needless to say, we are all invested and passionate about mitigating the presence and spread of Bd/chytridiomycosis in amphibian populations. 

Over the summer, the Rollins-Smith Lab hosted three more young scientists (see previous blog entry).  We had a full house for a few months, but these young ladies generated a lot of great data for some of our BII projects.  

In June, Dr Rollins-Smith and Laura Reinert traveled to Banff, Alberta, for the North American Comparative Immunology Workshop.  While there, Dr Rollins-Smith presented data showing inhibition studies of Bd and Bsal against frog immunity, and Laura Reinert presented the latest data from our work looking at skin defenses of Puerto Rico’s Eleutherodactylus coqui (common Coqui frog) throughout different seasons.

L-R, Dr Rollins-Smith, Laura Reinert at NACI in Banff

Rounding out the end of the summer, Dr Rollins-Smith, Laura Reinert, and Mitchell Le Sage attended the first GARD (Global Amphibian & Reptile Diseases) meeting in Knoxville, TN.  This meeting brought attendees from all over the globe, such as England, Australia, and Belgium, just to name a few.  Dr Rollins-Smith gave one of the keynote addresses, and Mitchell Le Sage presented some work that he and collaborators have completed on Bd and Bsal infection in the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).

We are all now back home and hunkered down in the lab for the coming months ready to crank out more data!  We are also actively recruiting rotation students for the 2022-2023 academic year, so please reach out to Dr Rollins-Smith ( if you are interested!

Until next time, be well and take care!

The field crew from our BII workshop in Pymatuning, PA

June 23, 2022

Hello Summer!

And hello heat!  While heat and humidity is the norm for our area, we’ve reached record highs for mid-June with a +100° heat index over several days.   To be honest, it's been pretty awful, even for those of us who have lived here all of our lives.


But guess what else is hot!?  ALL OF THE SUMMER RESEARCH TAKING PLACE IN THE ROLLINS-SMITH LAB!  We are excited to have three summer students working with us; two of them are from the Aspirnaut program here at Vanderbilt, and the third student is employed as a summer intern.  We love mentoring young scientists, and these ladies are showing great potential with a bright future ahead of them.



Meet Our Students!

Shouana Yang: Shouana is a high school Aspirnaut student who comes to us from Hmong College Prep Academy in St Paul, MN.  She is a member of the Junior Committee where she plans fundraisers in support of her class.  She aspires to be a dermatologist, but in the meantime, she enjoys journaling, listening to music, baking, watching films, playing volleyball, and collecting vinyl LPs.  Her summer project looks at the interaction between the Jurkat human cell line with either heat killed Bd, Hp, or Bsal cells in a co-culture experiment.  Our lab has shown that cell-to-cell interactions between chytrid fungi and immune cells can inhibit proliferation and/or viability of lymphocytes, and Shouana is looking at this interaction with her experiments.

Reagan Hagewood: Reagan is not only an Aspirnaut student but she is also native to the area.  She is from La Vergne, TN, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Nashville.  She attends college in Texas at Prairie View A&M University.  There she majors in biology with a minor in chemistry, and she is a member of the Honors Program.  Reagan enjoys exploring parks and greenways, reading self-help books, traveling, journaling, and spending time with friends and family.  She aspires to be a physician-scientist.  During her time in our lab, Reagan is looking at co-cultures of Bd and Bsal to examine the dynamics of how they behave when grown together.  Via qPCR, she is looking to see if one species is able to out compete the other.  This can lend insight as to what may be happening during Bd/Bsal co-infection in an amphibian.

Sarah Lofland:  Sarah is from Philadelphia and attends the University of Pittsburgh, where she is a rising junior.  This is not her first rodeo in a research lab; she has previous experience in a biophysics lab in New Jersey.  She plans to pursue a PhD upon graduation and is interested in clinical trials research as a career.  Sarah is furthering much of the work done by Kaitlyn Linney and Jack Lee by extracting and testing cell wall preps derived from Bd, Bsal, and Hp fungi.  Our previous work has shown that their cell walls contain inhibitory factors that can hinder proliferation of immune cells.  Sarah is continues this work, and we look forward to her results.

We welcome everyone to the lab and look forward to a fruitful summer!  There is funding news on the horizon; stay tuned, and we’ll update you on that in the coming weeks!



October 8, 2021

Happy Fall!

October has arrived and Fall is slowly marching into middle Tennessee.  We’ve enjoyed milder temperatures and we’re beginning to see leaves fall from the trees.  We’ve even had some fairly cool days in recent weeks!

You know what else is cool?  Podcasts!  They’re a delightful companion to your pumpkin spice latte and apple cinnamon muffin.  The Rollins-Smith Lab is excited to share an episode of a podcast series “Vanderbilt Health DNA: Discoveries in Action.”  According to their website, “The DNA series is designed to spark conversations about medicine, health and society.”  

The episode entitled “Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane” features interviews with three professors from Vanderbilt University/Vanderbilt University Medical Center including our very own Dr. Rollins-Smith!

  • Reed Omary, MD, Professor, Radiology & Radiological Sciences
  • Carol Ziegler, DNP, NP-C, RD, Professor, Cross-College Scholar, Affiliated Faculty, Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health/Family Nurse Practitioner, Meharry Family Practice
  • Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Professor of Pediatrics

Click on the link below to hear this very special episode.

Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane

And be sure to check out other episodes from this series.  They're currently in their second season, so there are a lot of shows to choose from in their library.   

The VUMC Reporter has written about this podcast episode, as well as an additional project taking place in the Rollins-Smith Lab.  You can read that story here:

VUMC Reporter article

Take care and we'll be back soon with more updates!


August 25, 2021

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

It’s hot and humid around here (also known as August in TN) and time for a few updates!

We’re beginning the fall semester here at Vanderbilt University which is always an exciting time for our lab.  We have the opportunity to not only welcome new students into the lab, but we also see the return of former students.  We have 2 undergraduate women who will be joining our crew to assist with animal care and other lab chores: Emmy Schuler and Joyce Sanks.  Welcome, Ladies!  We are looking forward to working with you and thank you in advance for your help.  Secondly, Kaitlyn Linney has worked in our lab for several years, and she has returned this fall to continue her research.  In the past, she has examined different levels of virulence among various isolates of Bd.  Furthermore, she has also looked at temperature dependent levels of virulence in Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This semester she will be obtaining cell wall preparations from Bd and possibly Bsal since we believe many virulence factors are located on the cell wall of these fungi.  She will test those cell wall fractions for inhibition of either a T lymphocyte cell line or frog splenocytes.  Glad you have you back, Kaitlyn!

As you all know, we have several projects in the works (see Projects page) and hope to make great progress on them this fall.  We are wrapping up our DOD funded project “Effects of Climate on Host/Pathogen Interactions in Chytridiomycosis” that we’ve been working on for the last five years.  This project has involved a great deal of work, so it’s rather bittersweet to see it come to an end.  Some publications have already come out of this research, and we are working on additional manuscripts at this time.  I will keep you posted on their progress. 

We are working with Ana Longo, PhD, and Patricia Burrowes, PhD, on the project “Defining the role of skin microbiomes in defense against chytridiomycosis in frogs with seasonal infections.”  Dr. Burrowes and her colleagues have sent us lots of Coqui frog skin secretions obtained from the field in Puerto Rico.  We are currently purifying the skin antimicrobial peptides (amps) from those secretions and preparing to test their ability to inhibit Bd growth.  We ran across a few technical issues working with these samples over the summer, but we think we’ve ironed out the wrinkles and are anxious to see if there are seasonal effects on the ability of amps to inhibit Bd.

Mitch Le Sage, MS, continues to work on the “Transmission Pathways and Immunological Factors Driving Invasion Potential of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans project and making great progress including co-authoring some recent publications/presentations of the work.  He is currently setting up an infection experiment with a newt-derived isolate of Bd generously provided to us by Dr. Ana Longo. 

I believe that’s the latest to report at this time.  We have at least one more project submitted for funding, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed to hear good news in the coming months.

In the meantime…take care, get vaccinated, and wear a mask.


July 1, 2021


We're stopping by to make a big announcement.  We are very excited to report that The Rollins Smith Lab is part of a new NSF-Funded  Biology Integration Institute (BII): “Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research (RIBBiTR)."  The institute encompasses nine academic institutions and thirteen senior investigators using field and laboratory studies to investigate how amphibian species are developing long term resistance to the fungal disease called chytridiomycosis that has caused decades-long declines in amphibian populations around the world.  The good news is that some populations and some species of amphibians appear to be recovering, and our institute will continue to monitor and investigate the biological mechanisms that support these recoveries.

Needless to say, funding is what keeps us in business and allows us to continue the research we do…research to preserve these beautiful amphibian populations that are integral to a healthy ecosystem.  Plus, who doesn’t love hearing them call on a warm summer night?  Especially this little guy!  He's a barking tree frog that will have you truly wondering "who let the dogs out."  

Hello?  Hello?  Is this thing on...?

In spite of our dreadful attempts at humor, we are grateful to the NSF for supporting this research and we look forward to bringing you updates.

Happy Summer!


Photo credit: Emily Le Sage, PhD

May 13, 2021

Happy Spring from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Apologies for the long overdue update on the latest from the lab.  Somehow time gets away from us and then we turn around to find that spring has sprung here in Nashville!   The trees and flowers have been gorgeous in recent weeks.  The dogwoods, cherry blossoms, redbuds, azaleas, and forsythia were among some of the most stunning blooms we’ve seen in a while.  We are now seeing the irises bloom, and irises are special!  They're the state flower so it’s always neat to see them in all their glory.   This year’s spring has been exceptionally lovely and filled with cool temperatures to enjoy before the summer heat and humidity arrive.


Tennessee State Flower, the Iris (Photo credit: pixers)


Meanwhile….the Rollins-Smith is perking along like a well-oiled coffee machine.   There may be a shortage of gasoline, but there is no shortage of caffeine around here to keep us fueled up and running.  As a result, we have two new publications to share!

Bd Review Paper

This is an excellent review paper written by Dr. Rollins-Smith and our post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Emily Le Sage.  It’s filled with all you could ever want to know about Batrachochytrium fungi and their relationship with their amphibian hosts.

Bsal Publication

This research looks at the susceptibility of Eastern newts to a newly emerging chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This is of great importance because Bsal isn’t currently found in the US.   There are many ongoing efforts to stave off its entry into the country because this pathogen could have a devastating effect on the amphibian population if it enters the ecosystem.  Much of this work was performed by our research assistant Mitchell Le Sage, M.S. 

Congratulations, Mitch and our colleagues at the Univ of TN, Knoxville, on your hard work!


As always, publications are very exciting and we are really thrilled to share this work.  So grab a latte and a muffin and sit back and enjoy some of our latest research.   After all, it’s not like you can drive anywhere, right?

Lastly, we will be joined by a Vanderbilt undergraduate student, Danny Nguyen, this summer.  He will work on our Coqui frog project, so stay tuned for additional updates in the coming weeks/months.  Welcome, Danny!

January 4, 2021

Happy New Year from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready for 2021. 

We all appreciate that metaphorical reset button that accompanies January 1st.   But even though we’ve joyfully said goodbye and good riddance to 2020, that doesn’t mean COVID magically disappears.  We all must continue to follow the CDC guidelines of wearing facemasks and physical distancing in addition to washing hands and staying home as much as reasonably possible.  Thankfully, we now have a working vaccine, so we hope to see lots of injections go into lots of people in the coming weeks.  VUMC is actively vaccinating its staff, so rest assured that the current members of the Rollins-Smith Lab are all vacc’d up & mask’d up…or something like that…

Now for the good news: PUBLICATIONS!

We closed out 2020 with the publication of a manuscript that we are very excited about.  I can say firsthand that a lot of time and effort went into this research.  It called for many late nights in the field collecting amphibians as well as LOTS of skin swabs and skin secretions.  This project began in 2017, and it looks at the relationship between climate and disease susceptibility in amphibians. 

This is how seriously we took this work.

Click on the link below to read the abstract.

Preparatory immunity: Seasonality of mucosal skin defences and Batrachochytrium infections in Southern leopard frogs

Emily Le Sage, PhD (pictured above, far left) is our lead author, and she worked very hard to pull together a lot of field data for this manuscript.  Congratulations, Dr Le Sage and colleagues, on this great study!

We also look forward to welcoming back our undergraduate student, Kaitlyn Linney, who will be studying on campus this spring.  She will resume her independent project in the lab looking at temperature-dependent virulence levels in Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans.  Stay tuned, and we'll provide updates on her project in the coming months.

Until then, stay safe and be well!






October 1, 2020

Happy Fall from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone is enjoying this nice break from the heat as we have now officially entered the fall season and all things pumpkin spice.  We know everyone loves to hate on pumpkin spice, but it’s a necessary evil this time of year.  So love it or hate it, it will forever embody cool temperatures, falling leaves, flannel shirts, and the fact that everything is going to be orange for the next 2 months.

In light of this, I highly recommend that you grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte and find yourself a cozy fire pit because we have a fabulous new publication that you’re gonna want to read. Not only do I think it is of extreme interest but it’s also especially relevant in this day and age.

Antibiotics publication 

This study examined the effect of amphibian-derived antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) on bacteria commonly found in the human vagina. Previous studies with these AMPs have shown them to inhibit in vitro transmission of HIV.  In order to consider them as a prophylaxis, it was critical to test the effect they may have on the normal microbial community within the vagina.  Furthermore, we also tested these AMPs for growth inhibition against a relative of the bacteria that causes the STD gonorrhea.  Check out the link to the article; the results are very exciting!

This publication is also meaningful because most of the research was conducted by three talented young women who recently worked in the Rollins-Smith Lab…..two of whom were in high school at the time. 

Dr. Patricia Smith is a graduate from Vanderbilt University who spent several years working in research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after she completed her Bachelor’s degree.  She worked tirelessly on experiments to test the effects of caerin 1 peptides on lactobacillus growth and tackled much of the troubleshooting to ensure the data were sound. She went on to attend the University of TN Health Science Center College of Medicine and earned her MD in 2017.  She is currently a fourth year resident at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. 

Anna Ledeczi, a high school student at the time, worked in our lab as part of her enrollment in the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt.  Anna continued experiments testing the effects of caerin 1 peptides on lactobacillus growth.  She then tested the effects of active peptides on Neisseria lactamica, a stand in for the pathogenic Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Anna was a bright and motivated student who was always excited to gather data and interpret the results.  She is now enrolled in Colombia University where she continues to pursue science.

Julia Rowe was also in high school when she worked in our lab.  She spent a great deal of time working on the peptide experiments alongside Dr. Smith.  I can recall explaining the concept of molarity to Julia because she hadn’t even taken her first chemistry class yet!  Julia earned a Bachelor’s degree in public health with a minor in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she is now pursuing a Master’s degree in public health at East TN State University.  There is no doubt that Julia will be a success in all of her endeavors.

Thanks to Dr. Smith, Anna, and Julia, for all of their hard work.  And let's not forget our fearless leader, Dr. Louise Rollins-Smith, for pulling together the data for publication.

And as always, stay tuned!  We have manuscripts both submitted and in prep, so I hope to be back soon with more great reading recommendations…..which will no doubt be the perfect complement to all things pumpkin spice.

In the meantime, please take care and be well!




September 2, 2020

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

What!?  It's September!?  How in the world did that happen!?  Where does the time go!?

While the Year of the Plague seems like it will never end, it's also hard to believe we are closing the chapter on summer and looking towards fall.  Hopefully some cooler weather and changing leaves will boost our spirits in light of the lingering mental and emotional fatigue.

But we have good news to share!  Our lab recently received an NSF award for a new project we are very excited about!  This is a collaborative project with Dr. Patricia Burrowes of the University of Puerto Rico and Dr. Ana Longo of the University of Florida.  This project will look at immune function of the tropical coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) in light of seasonal dynamics, specifically focusing on the skin microbial community or the microbiome. The skin microbiome for amphibians can be a key player in innate immunity and it is often driven by seasonal changes.  This study will dig into the relationship between amphibian host and chytrid pathogen and how the microbiome may provide protection during different times of the year (cool-dry vs warm-wet).  Doctors Burrowes and Longo are both excellent scientists with whom we'll enjoy working.  I suggest you check out some of their work.

Secondly, we have accepted a graduate student, William Payne, into our lab for this first rotation period.  He will be doing some work looking at the role of leukocytes in response to Bd infection.  We are looking forward to adding an additional member to our crew for the next month or so.  Welcome, Will!

As always, we hope everyone is healthy and staying safe. 

Please be well and check back for updates!


Coqui frog
Photo credit, Wikipedia