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Humans and other animals are constantly carrying around infections — bacteria and viruses, many times without symptoms. I study what impact they are having on the organism in the background.
Moria Chambers was an avid swimmer and water polo player growing up, including competing in college for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then she contracted mononucleosis and was told she had to knock off the exercise for a couple of months.
"I went to my professor and asked him how it was that the Epstein-Barr virus was keeping me out of swimming for two whole months," Chambers recalls. "His response was to put a stack of research papers in front of me. I spent a lot of those two months out of the pool and instead reading about mono. The bug bit me, so to speak, and I have been interested in infectious disease research ever since."
Chambers loves making sure that science is not just memorizing facts, but rather learning processes and relating science to students' day-to-day lives. Her main research emphasis examines how infection, and thus the work of the immune system, affects the physiology of those infected.
"Humans and other animals are constantly carrying around infections — bacteria and viruses, many times without symptoms," says Chambers. "I study what impact they are having on the organism in the background. How does it affect metabolism and other physical properties?"
Not only does she want to characterize the effects, she is interested in whether other animals — prospective mates, for example — can detect these changes using senses like taste and smell.
Chambers uses fruit flies in her research and finds that they are the perfect subject for students to study in both her research laboratory and the classroom.
"They take only 10 days to develop from egg to adult, so students can get in a lot of different aspects of experimentation," she says. "You can also manipulate their genetics easily. You can't do that with humans, but since many signaling pathways in fruit flies are also present in humans, fruit flies are an excellent model organism."
Posted Oct. 7, 2016