Debbie Knight

Hello, World!

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2011 at 12:06 am

Allow me to introduce myself and explain what this blog is about.

I’ve worked in biological research labs at two universities for over 20 years — primarily studying viruses.  Meanwhile, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open and learned about science and how science works — as an investigation as well as a business.

I started out as a lab technician in an environmental research lab at Purdue University.  The research group was  trying to find bacteria (or a group of bacteria) that could degrade agricultural pesticides.  What I found was a bug that could degrade aniline (which is simply a ring of six carbons (called a benzene ring) with an extra little NH2 stuck on it — a wee bit of a challenge for a microbe to break open but the form that many pesticides degrade down to and stop).  What was unique about this microbe I dubbed DAK 3 is that it could use this ring structure as a source of “food” even when there was plenty of glucose (table sugar) around.  Typically, microbes are rather lazy — they’ll use the easiest “food” source around, which in this case would be glucose.  Other than a manuscript published with my name included in the list of authors, nothing much came of this discovery.

A couple of years later, I moved to another state and began my career as a research associate at a another university in a virology lab .  The first skill I had to learn (and at first I had a difficult time wrapping my head around this idea):  instead of wanting the bacteria to grow in culture, the goal was to avoid bacterial contamination in the mammalian cell cultures.  The photo above shows me at the culture hood, surrounded by all the flasks that were used to make a stock of virus.

Over the  past 20 years, I have studied:

  • how a virus called cytomegalovirus (which is related to the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores) hides from the immune system,
  • been on the ground floor in the discovery of an anti-viral drug (against cytomegalovirus) that has shown some promise in organ transplant patients,
  • discovered this same drug is effective against several other unrelated viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV — which causes a lot of problems in newborn babies) and the polyomavirus BK-virus (which causes trouble in kidney transplant patients),
  • studied how HIV might pass from an HIV-infected mother, through the placenta, to infect a baby while it is still in the womb
  • how a rare neurological syndrome (called Susac’s Syndrome) may be caused by antibodies that recognize the cells that line the blood vessels (called endothelial cells) causing damage in the brain, eyes, and ears.

I’ve seen firsthand how the National Institute of Health (NIH) budget can affect research as well as careers.

I’ve worked with many research and medical scientists as well as graduate students, medical students, and undergraduate students.

In this blog, I hope to share these experiences.

And who knows, maybe somewhere along the way, you’ll learn something you didn’t know about the ins and outs of science.  No agenda — just what it’s like to be a “lab rat.”

  1. Nice to make your acquaintance, D Knight. You seem a bit familiar.

  2. i’m also a lab rat. literally. although my upward mobility is not as upward nor as mobile as yours. you being a homo and all. you know, sapiens.

    anway, keep an eye out for me. i’m white and i have pink eyes. the color, not the conjunctivitis kind. you’ll recognize me. i’m the one with a computer and a bookmark to


  3. […] think my first post “Hello, World” (a title suggested by WordPress) got a few inadvertent views because of the Lady Antebellum song […]

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