Elizabeth Danka, Ph.D.


    Microbiology & Immunology


    Washington University - Molecular Cell Biology


    Peggy Cotter, Ph.D.


I have known that I wanted to go to graduate school and do research since I was a child. My first hands-on research experience in a lab at the Tulane University School of Medicine confirmed my love of exploration and discovery. While I was there, I also began to recognize how important it is for young students to have strong mentors. As an undergraduate at the University of Richmond, I was surrounded by faculty members that engaged students during interactive classes, mentored students in the lab, and were involved in the campus community. Drs. April Hill and Laura Runyen-Janecky continue to be insightful and supportive mentors to me. My undergraduate experiences set me up to excel in graduate school, but they also exposed me to a career path that would allow me to utilize my different skills and to give back to the scientific community. 

As a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, I studied host-pathogen interactions in David Hunstad’s lab. My project examined how bacterial factors and a host antimicrobial peptide affect UTI pathogenesis. Although I had not expected to join a microbiology lab, I soon realized that microbiology is amenable to hands-on, undergraduate research, which is important for a career at a primarily undergraduate university. During my time at WashU, I was highly involved in the science outreach program the Young Scientist Program in many capacities, including teaching a science communication course and mentored a high school student in the lab. Furthermore, my participation in the teaching certificate program and CIRTL program led by WashU’s Teaching Center, in addition to ASM’s Science Teaching Fellowship, helped me develop important teaching skills.

I am excited to join the SPIRE program, where I will enhance my teaching and mentoring skills. My research is focusing on bacterial competition and signaling using the human pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei in Dr. Peggy Cotter’s lab. I hope to use all of my experiences during my time as a SPIRE scholar in a career that blends teaching, mentoring, research, and outreach.


  • Spring 2017
    • Cell Biology, North Carolina A&T State University


  • Danka ES- Garcia EC- Cotter PA. Are CDI Systems Multicolored- Facultative- Helping Greenbeards?. Trends in microbiology. 2017 May;25(5):391-401