Brittany Miller, Ph.D.

Cell Biology & Physiology

Education

UNC Chapel Hill – Microbiology & Immunology

Mentors

Patrick Brennwald, Ph.D.

Biography

I received a BA in Biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2011, and a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2018. I worked with Dr. Miriam Braunstein on the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes the disease tuberculosis. Mtb is able to inhibit host processes that normally kill invading bacteria, in part by exporting proteins important for causing virulence. Mtb uses a specialized pathway called the SecA2 protein export pathway to transport some of these virulence proteins out of the cell. Using a genetic screen, I identified and characterized a new protein export chaperone that is required for certain virulence proteins to be exported through the SecA2 pathway.

For my postdoc, I am working with Dr. Patrick Brennwald in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. Ultimately, we seek to understand the mechanisms that underlie membrane trafficking and intracellular vesicle transport using the highly genetically manipulatable yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism for higher eukaryotes. Our approach involves genetic, biochemical, and structural characterization of the proteins necessary for targeting and fusing vesicles to specific sites of the plasma membrane.

My academic achievements have been supported through a series of excellent teachers and mentors. Being on the receiving end of successful mentorship throughout undergraduate and graduate school was an important push to pursue research and education. I spent time in graduate school mentoring undergraduate students in the lab, taking classes on pedagogy, and teaching a Genetics lab at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC. As a SPIRE scholar, I am excited to use the tools in our lab to begin to establish a research program that incorporates: (1) independent research projects in the lab that are appropriate for work with undergraduate students and (2) long-term, inquiry-based research projects that will bring experiential learning into the classroom.