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Alumni Spotlight: Krista Armbruster

In this edition of BMB's Alumni Spotlight,we feature Krista Armbruster

Image of Krista Armbruster

Krista obtained a B.S. in Biological Sciences at the University at Buffalo before coming to Penn State to pursue her graduate studies in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program.  While a student at Penn State, Krista worked in the lab of Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Tim Meredith.  She discovered the enzyme that synthesizes lyso-form lipoproteins in Gram-positive Firmicutes and studied the role of lyso-form lipoproteins in copper resistance and the host immune response.  In 2019, upon successfully defending her thesis she earned her Ph.D.  

Currently, Krista lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and works at the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Nicole Koropatkin.  

Since furthering her career at the University of Michigan, Krista has been awarded the prestigious Michigan Life Sciences Fellowship.  The Michigan Life Sciences Fellows program comprises a unique, multidisciplinary community of scholars, and provides mentorship focused on nurturing and launching truly innovative scientists into groundbreaking careers.  The Program not only seeks to foster the next generation of scientists, but the next generation of scientific leaders.

You can keep up with Krista by following her on Twitter: @kristatooturnt

Let’s chat with Krista, talk about her experiences while at Penn State, and catch up with what she’s been up to.

What do you do in the Koropatkin Laboratory at the University of Michigan?

My graduate work focused on bacterial lipoproteins, or proteins attached to the cell membrane by lipids, in certain bacteria such as Enterococcus faecalis and Listeria monocytogenes. As a postdoc, my research still centers on lipoproteins, though now in the human gut symbionts the Bacteroidetes. The Bacteroidetes employ many specific protein complexes located on the cell surface that allow for the capture and degradation of dietary carbohydrates, which promote gut health. These protein complexes include multiple lipoproteins. Thus, my work involves characterizing these lipoproteins, from how they are transported to the cell surface to how they move within the membrane to capture carbohydrates.

Image of Krista Armbruster

What was it that made you want to come to Penn State, and BMB, to pursue your education?

Not knowing at the time that I wanted to pursue microbiology, I was first interested in BMB for its breadth of faculty and multidisciplinary research labs. Upon visiting Penn State and speaking to the grad students in BMMB, I immediately felt welcomed and like I had found my home.

How do you feel Penn State, and BMB, prepared you for your current position or career?

Throughout my time at Penn State, I learned several fundamental lab techniques that can be applied to any research goal, from culturing and manipulating bacteria, to Western and Northern blotting, to performing immunological assays in mammalian cells. I had access to high-tech instruments that allowed me to develop key skills in mass spectrometry. Through our seminar speaker series and grad student presentations, I honed my public speaking skills that have allowed me to effectively communicate my science.

Share at least one interesting/fun fact about yourself.

I have over 100 bottles of nail polish

Image of Krista Armbruster

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Outside of work, I like doing things like crocheting, crafting, cooking, and cats.  I also volunteer as an instructor for Developing Future Biologists, a trainee-led organization that aims to expose undergraduates from all backgrounds to key biology concepts and prepare them for careers in science. As an instructor, I help design and implement an immersive weeklong short course at the University of Michigan where undergrads can gain hands-on lab experience and participate in career development activities.  Normally held in person, this year we successfully held our first virtual course and are working to creatively expand our program while facing the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Image of Krista Armbruster lecturing via Zoom
Krista conducting a lecture for Developing Future Biologists

Once a Nittany Lion, Always a Nittany Lion!  We Are Penn State

When I first moved to Ann Arbor after leaving Penn State, I quickly began noticing people wearing PSU hats, shirts, and jackets. When I looked at the cars parked next to mine at my new apartment, several of them had Penn State bumper stickers, Lion magnets, or PSU key chains hanging from the rear-view mirror. I miss Penn State but when I see these signs of PSU around me, I know that I'm never too far away!

Advice from Krista to future generations of scientists:

There is no one path to success, and success looks different to everyone. Always try new things, even things you may not think you'd be interested in, and you may be surprised at what happens. Find YOUR path.