My research career started as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where, under the guidance of Dr. Heather Pelzel, I conducted my own project testing the killing efficacy of zinc and copper-based cleaners against bacteria. At Whitewater I also focused on learning molecular and cellular biology techniques and became interested in glaucoma. After graduating, I moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become a research scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Nickells, focusing on the role of BAX in retinal ganglion cell death. I later joined the IDP program at MCW and, after completing my rotations, elected to join the Ocular Gene Therapy Lab and complete my doctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. Lipinski.
The vast majority of ocular gene transfer for therapeutic applications is mediated by recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors which, unfortunately, have a limited coding capacity of ~4.8kb. As a consequence, I am interested in the development of novel vector technologies that are capable of delivering large genes to cells of the retina. A second aspect of my research project involves the development and characterization of models of hyper-rare retinal diseases, with a specific focus on gyrate atrophy.