Danielle Fortune, Ph.D.


    Microbiology & Immunology


    University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences - Microbiology & Immunology


    Rita Tamayo, Ph.D.


Early in my collegiate career, I was exposed to several fields of science, but I immediately realized that I was deeply interested in microbiology, immunology, and infectious diseases. I found it fascinating that a microscopic organism could invade the human body and cause such a substantial degree of damage to the human body. It intrigued me that there were so many unanswered questions despite the advancements that have been made in the field of medical research.  It was a glimpse of how much remains unknown that served as a window of opportunity for me to immerse myself deeply into research in order to advance the knowledge of host-pathogen interactions. As my passion and curiosity for microbiology, immunology, and infectious disease intensified, I sought out several research opportunities to assist in my personal development as a scientist. In addition to pursuing my passion for research, I gained experience in teaching by tutoring students with their biology and mathematics courses at Fayetteville State University, where I completed my undergraduate degree, and it was then that I knew I had a love for teaching.

I continued to develop my research skills at the at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where I obtained my Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Jon Blevins, where I studied how Borrelia burgdorferi utilizes genetic components to promote mammalian virulence. In addition, I identified several opportunities to teach, mentor, and lecture during my graduate training. These experiences put into perspective the importance of research in undergraduate teaching. Collectively, those experiences were extremely gratifying and fueled my passion to become a science educator. This passion led me to the UNC SPIRE program.

Being a scholar in the UNC-SPIRE Postdoctoral Program will give me the opportunity to not only expand my research scope but also provide me with substantial teaching opportunities and resources to aid in my development as an educator. The incorporation of research in teaching is important because it augments traditional didactic teaching. I want to use research as a tool to allow my students to exercise their critical thinking and analytical skills. Using this approach, I want to teach undergraduate students fundamental microbiology principles to build a foundation for more advanced microbiology concepts through hands on research experiences. 

For my postdoctoral research at UNC-Chapel Hill, I am conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Rita Tamayo studying, where I will use molecular and genetic approaches to study how the obligate anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium difficile adapts to disparate and changing extracellular conditions and promote disease. Collectively, our research goal is to identify factors that C. difficile needs to cause disease in efforts that these components could be targeted to prevent infection or treat disease. I am excited to be working with Dr. Tamayo and her research group because I believe it will provide a stimulating and challenging environment in which I can work and accomplish my training goals. In addition, the SPIRE Program will aid in my development as a science educator and assist me in my goal as a future faculty member of developing a learning environment that engages students through active learning, critical thinking, writing, and analytical skills.



  • Spring 2017
    • Bacterial Pathogenesis, Johnson C. Smith University