Kevin grew up outside of Madison, Wisconsin and, like any good Wisconsinite, eats way too much cheese. He also maintains a reverent love of the Green Bay Packers, as is custom.
Kevin’s first research experience was at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, where he led an effort to identify copy number variation associated with autism spectrum disorders while an undergraduate at Arizona State University. After graduation, Kevin began his PhD work in the lab of Gautam Dantas at Washington University in St. Louis, researching antibiotic resistance genes in soil microbial communities. His worked focused on the potential for antibiotic resistance genes to move between innocuous soil bacteria and human pathogens as well as identifying the factors governing resistance gene composition in natural soil communities. He also discovered a new family of tetracycline-inactivating enzymes, demonstrating that these enzymes of oxidize tetracycline via a previously undescribed mechanism.
As he concluded his PhD work, Kevin became fascinated with phages as agents of horizontal gene transfer, which led to a broader interest in phage-bacterial conflicts. To prevent phage infection, bacteria have devised anti-phage defenses which has spurred phages to develop counter-defense strategies. This arms race has been raging for billions of years, which means there is a huge diversity of defense and counter-defense systems in nature – most of which have not been discovered! As a postdoc in the Malik lab, Kevin has focused on one aspect of this phage-bacterial arms race: how phages overcome CRISPR-Cas defenses in bacteria. He developed a functional selection scheme to find to CRISPR-Cas inhibitors from large DNA libraries (e.g. metagenomic libraries). Applied to human oral and fecal microbiomes, this selection revealed many new examples of these phage counter-defenses, including CRISPR-Cas inhibitors with new mechanisms. Kevin’s future lab will continue to use functional selections to reveal new bacterial defenses and phage counter-defenses, which he will pursue in mechanistic detail.
‡Authors contributed equally