Brandon Stairs 2022 Scholarship Recipient

On June 2, 2022 the CMS Board of Directors voted to grant Brandon Stairs the 2022 Freeman Rowe Memorial Scholarship. Brandon is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Biology & Plant Pathology at Oregon State University (OSU); and is a Research Assistant in the Uehling Mycological Research Lab at OSU.

I would like to pursue a career in fungal research, researchers in the Uehling lab study fungi from multiple phylums so I have been able to learn a lot during my time here. I would like to pursue a career studying human fungal pathogens or use computational biology to investigate the relationship that fungi have with each other and their environment.

– From Brandon’s CMS Scholarship application

Brandon’s project is titled “The effects of environmental selective pressures and bacterial endosymbionts on Rhizopus microsporus molecular diversity.” Rhizopus microsporus is located within the phylum Mucoromycota, subphylum Mucoromycotina, and order Mucorales (Spatafora 2016). This fungal species is a saprobe that is known to decompose fruit and has been isolated from soil samples across the globe. Current research revolves around microsporus’ involvement in Mucormycosis and tempe production.
Mucormycosis is a fungal infection that is typically rare, although humans with underlying health issues are highly susceptible resulting in a >50% mortality rate (Spellberg 2020).

Study Plan
Hypothesis: Virulence of Rhizopus microsporus is due to molecular genomic
differences that we will identify by comparing clinical and environmental isolates.
Questions that will be investigated:

  • Do genomes of isolates from clinical and environmental sources exhibit patterns
  • of differentiation?
  • How have geographically isolated populations diverged at the intraspecific level?
  • What endosymbiotic bacteria are harbored by R. microsporus and do they have
  • an impact on host virulence?

We look forward to hosting Brandon at a CMS meeting in the future to hear about the results of his research. You may view Brandon’s full project proposal here.

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