Hi, my name is Jennifer Auchtung.
I'm a post-doc in Alan Grossman's lab.
Back to the Grossman Lab Webpage
This is how to contact me:
Department of Biology
31 Ames St., Room 68-540D
Cambridge, MA 02139
Horizontal gene transfer plays an important role in bacterial evolution. Acquisition of foreign DNA can be beneficial to a cell, such as when the DNA encodes proteins that allow the cell to adapt to a new niche. However, acquisition of foreign DNA can also be detrimental, such as when the DNA encodes a toxic product. Therefore, mechanisms that regulate horizontal gene transfer can balance the potential risks of acquiring foreign DNA with the potential rewards. My work has focused on mechanisms that regulate two types of horizontal gene transfer, competence for genetic transformation and transfer of the mobile genetic element ICEBs1, in the Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis.
CO-INSTRUCTOR, MIT FIELD TRIP FOR HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE CLASSES (Annual, 2005 – 2007)
As an outreach to the community, the MIT biology department invites students and teachers from biology classes at local area high schools to spend the day at MIT and experience biological research. Here's a link to the website describing the Bio department's high school outreach: http://mit.edu/biology/www/outreach/precollege.shtml . In March of 2005, Melanie Berkmen (User:Melanie berkmen) and I designed a short lesson that allowed the students to investigate how the bacterium Bacillus subtilis responds to starvation by forming dormant spores. The students had the chance to use light microscopy to distinguish sporulating cells from non-sporulating cells. They also learned that spore formation in Bacillus subtilis is an interesting process to study because it is an example of bacterial development and because of the similarities to spore formation in pathogenic bacteria, such as the anthrax-causing bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. I enjoyed this first experience so much, that I volunteered to teach the same lesson again in 2006 with Melanie and in 2007 with Kasia Gora, a rotation student in Alan's lab.
TEACHING ASSISTANT, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, MIT (Spring 2004)
This senior-level undergraduate/graduate course was taught by Tania Baker and Steve Bell. During the course of the semester we covered a wide range of topics, including DNA replication and recombination, transposition, transcription, translation, and gene regulation. Here's a link to the course website from Spring 2005, which is available through MIT's OpenCourseWare: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Biology/7-28Spring-2005/CourseHome/index.htm . My responsibilities for this course involved preparing and leading weekly discussion sections with students, preparing problem sets for students in collaboration with another teaching assistant, and grading students’ exams. It was a great opportunity to watch intelligent students learn to engage challenging concepts that I find very interesting.
TEACHING ASSISTANT, EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY LAB, MIT (Fall 2001)
This introductory biology was taught by Angelika Amon, Alex Rich, Mary Lou Pardue, and Andrew Chess. During the course of the semester, the students had the opportunity to try a wide variety of experimental techniques to investigate questions in microbial genetics, protein biochemistry, recombinant DNA methods, and zebrafish development. Here's a link to the course website from Spring 2005, which is available through MIT's OpenCourseWare: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Biology/7-02Spring-2005/CourseHome/index.htm . My responsibilities for this course involved preparing biweekly discussion sections with students during the microbial genetics section of the course, preparing section notes for online publishing, supervising students' lab activities, and grading students’ exams and lab reports. This lab course was unlike any I had ever experienced as an undergrad because the students had the opportunity to use so many techniques. It was also interesting to watch some students learning how to do lab work for the first time and to meet others who were already quite experienced due to previous independent research experiences.
When I'm not hard at work, I enjoy reading, running, playing tennis, and spending time with my son, Julian.
My husband, Tommy Auchtung, is also a microbiologist and a graduate student in Colleen Cavanaugh's lab at Harvard University. He's passionate about Korarchaeota, a division of Archaea that is thought to be deeply rooted on the evolutionary tree. One perk about studying Korarchaeota is the interesting places he goes to collect samples (Yellowstone National Park, Kamchatka, Russia, the bottom of the ocean.) Unfortunately, I don't get to go along.