Nathan Wasilko, a 5th-year graduate student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program, was named the 2019 recipient of the Richard L. and Norma L. McCarl Graduate Scholarship. Each year the scholarship is awarded to an Outstanding student within the BMMB Program.
Wasilko works in the in the lab of Tim Miyashiro, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and conducts research focusing on how the bacteria within the light organ of the Hawaiian bobtail squid acquire sulfur. Understanding the factors that impact the growth of host-associated microbes ultimately depends on determining the mechanisms they use to acquire and synthesize nutrients. Wasilko has published one paper as first author titled “Sulfur availability for Vibrio fischeri growth during symbiosis establishment depends on biogeography within the squid light organ,” with another in preparation, and is a contributing author on two other papers.
Wasilko’s research supports the overarching goal of the Miyashiro Laboratory, which is to study the cellular processes that are essential for bacteria to associate with a host. These processes are significant because the mechanisms that underlie them may represent novel therapeutic targets for controlling bacterial infections or increasing the efficacy of probiotic bacteria. The lab is currently studying how bacteria colonize and grow within a host.
In Wasilko’s nomination letter for the award Miyashiro stated, “I have had the pleasure of witnessing Nathan tackle tough scientific problems with maturity, cleverness, and intelligence.”
Wasilko, a native of Montville, Connecticut, became immersed in science at a very young age. His father, a research scientist at a large pharmaceutical company, would often bring Wasilko into his microbiology lab on the weekends, where he developed his desire to one day become a scientist and work in a lab. Wasilko plans to defend his thesis in February and to pursue a career in industry.
Congratulations Nathan on your 2019 Richard L. and Norma L. McCarl Graduate Scholarship and a successful career at Penn State!