July 28, 2023

Happy Summer from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Buckle up because we have lots of big news to share!  Where shall we begin?!

Let’s start with a very bittersweet goodbye to two members of our team.  Emily Le Sage (Hall), PhD, and Mitch Le Sage left our lab last week to move on to bigger adventures in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Dr. Le Sage has accepted a faculty position at Skidmore College, and Mitch is currently looking for a position in the area as well.  We are super sad to see them go, but ever so excited about this exciting new chapter in their lives.  Needless to say, we will continue to collaborate with each of them, so it’s not goodbye forever.

We’ve had a full house this past summer with three students doing a lot of great work in our lab.  Ashley Ayala is a high school student who was part of the VUMC Aspirnaut program.  During her time here, Ashley looked at the ability of symbiotic bacteria derived from the skin of southern leopard frogs to inhibit the growth of the fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bsal), an amphibian pathogen.   Spoiler alert!  She did find that some isolates were successful in suppressing Bsal growth in experimental assays.  These data are preliminary but also exciting and very encouraging! 

Kaya Booth is a rising sophomore who attends Haverford College in Pennsylvania.  She is working on the RIBBiTR project where she processes and tests frog skin secretions sent to us by colleagues in Pennsylvania, Brazil, and California.  She will be studying the efficacy of skin-derived antimicrobial peptides from our focal amphibian species against Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) growth using in vitro methods. 

Lastly, Ria Mirchandani is one of our own; she’s a Vanderbilt University undergrad who will be entering her sophomore year this fall. She is working in our lab as part of the Vanderbilt SyBBURE program.  Ria is not new to us; she spent last semester in our lab working on an independent study project, and we are delighted to have her back this summer.  Her work involves looking at Bd cell wall preps and how they are able to inhibit immune cells using in vitro assays.

We are grateful to each one of these ladies who are taking the time to work hard, learn valuable skills, and gather good data.    It’s a pleasure to know and mentor them!

Speaking of summer students, we’d like to recognize the accomplishments of one of our Aspirnaut students from last summer, Reagan Hagewood.  Y’all…..this bright young lady is going to change the world!  She spent this summer working an internship at St Jude in Memphis, TN, where her research focused on using live single-cell imaging to determine the mechanisms that drive hematopoietic stem cell daughter cell fates.   She currently attends Prairie View A&M University in Texas, though she is from the Nashville area.  Once she finishes her undergraduate education, she plans to enroll in an MD/PhD program.  But the best part…..she was just named one of the 2023 HBCU White House Scholars at her university!



Congratulations, Reagan, on this well-deserved recognition!  We are so proud of you!

We’d also like to take a moment to pat ourselves on the back!  AmphibiaWeb chose our paper "Heat stress and amphibian immunity in a time of climate change" as News of the Week.  This is a review article published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B written by Dr. Le Sage (Hall) and Dr. Rollins-Smith.  Congratulations, Ladies!

Lastly, we're expanding!  We are currently looking to hire a research assistant.  Come join us!  We’re a nice group!  If interested, please contact Dr. Rollins-Smith at louise.rollins-smith@vanderbilt.edu

Until next time, have a wonderful summer and we’ll be in touch again soon!