Ishi Keenum is a faculty member at Michigan Tech University. She received her PhD in Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her work focuses on the effects of water and wastewater treatment on the resistome and microbiome. We recently talked with Ishi about her work. (Answers have been lightly edited.)
How did you get interested in microbiome research?
My work in microbiomes started with trying to understand how antibiotic resistance is spread in the environment and how we can mitigate it through wastewater treatment processes. Understanding if antibiotic resistance genes are being carried by one microbial species or how they are being transferred across a microbial community is a complex issue that we use sequencing to try and answer.
Briefly describe your project as if you were talking to your grandmother. What excites you about your current research project?
Wastewater surveillance changes how we look at disease at the community level. Instead of relying only on clinical data, we can start to see the total disease burden in a community and identify what percentage of cases lead to hospitalization. It also lets us track outbreaks in near-real time.
What excites you about your current research project?
My work in generating comparable measurements in wastewater and metagenomics excites me because I think it will let us look for many more targets at once. Instead of tracking one disease or gene at a time, we can look at thousands and even try to identify emerging diseases. I get excited by the potential our research has for broad scale monitoring!
How does your work contribute to researchers’ understanding of the microbiome?
A key aspect of antibiotic resistance is understanding which microbes are carrying the genes. Understanding this element in wastewater will allow us to design treatment methods for ensuring antimicrobial resistance is removed through treatment.
What song do you currently have on repeat?
Karma by Taylor Swift.
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