Nikea Pittman, Ph.D.
Biochemistry & Biophysics
University of Florida, Gainesville – Biomedical Sciences
Saskia Neher, Ph.D.
I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, FL. My interest in science education stems from two years of an exceptional undergraduate research experience, where I was mentored by Maureen Long in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. My favorite part of graduate school was being able to teach in this way—guiding undergraduate students on their own independent research projects. Upon completing my PhD I also had the opportunity to work in the UF Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, providing science workshops and summer enrichment programming for college students, middle school students, and high school science teachers.
My personal goal is to help students make meaningful connections between the unseen microscopic world that surrounds them and concepts learned in their classes about DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. As a graduate student, I realized that viruses provide a great model system to do so. Beginning as a master’s student in Grant McFadden’s lab, I studied the ability of myxoma virus to target and eliminate tumors derived from human neuroblastoma cell lines. My PhD work introduced me to the world of structural biology, using cryo-electron microscopy to study viral tropism and antibody recognition under Mavis Agbandje-McKenna’s mentorship. Moving forward, I’m excited to continue investigating questions of protein structure and function. My research in the Neher lab will provide insights on the DoxD clan of membrane proteins, with a special focus on bacterial antibiotic resistance to reactive chlorine species and metronidazole. Furthermore, as a SPIRE scholar, I hope to equip undergraduate students to effectively learn biochemistry both inside and outside of the classroom.