College of Arts and Science
Ph.D., 2015, University of Tennessee
Stress response of bacteria at the host-pathogen interface
A microbiologist, Dr. Grunenwald is broadly interested in the stress response of bacteria at the host pathogen interface. Her work focuses on Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium responsible for (among other things) deadly methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections. Dr. Grunenwald writes that the central hypothesis of her research is that “the ability to readily sense environmental changes and accordingly shift cellular physiology opens niches for S. aureus within different tissues and confers intrinsic resistance to antibiotic treatments, contributing to S. aureus’s virulence, persistence, and success as a pathogen.” Her lab investigates a family of protein kinases involved in regulating cell wall biosynthesis and play a role in the organism’s resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. Using a combination of bacterial genetics, biochemistry, and murine models of infection, her goal is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that confer this resistance in the hope that these discoveries will lead to the development of novel antibiotic targets and antimicrobial strategies.