Emma Troth, a Ph.D. trainee in Dennis Kyle‘s laboratory, is entering her fourth year at UGA. She is originally from Eureka, Illinois, and attended Bradley University where she majored in Biology with a minor in Ethics. While at UGA, Emma has served as president of the CTEGD Graduate Student Association (2019-2020) and is currently the CTEGD Graduate Student Association representative.
How did you get interested in neglected tropical diseases?
As an undergraduate, I participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, I worked on a project characterizing malaria vectors in the Solomon Islands and Indonesia. My summer at Notre Dame sparked my interest in neglected tropical diseases.
Why did you choose UGA?
I chose UGA because of the diversity of research. Coming into graduate school, I knew I was interested in infectious diseases but did not have my heart set on a particular organism to work on. UGA works on the biggest selection of infectious organisms. With the Integrated Life Sciences Program, I had the opportunity to experience multiple labs working on different organisms, regardless of department, to help me identify where I would like to complete my doctoral degree.
What is your research focus? Why are you interested in this topic?
My project focuses on drug discovery for Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoebae. My main project focuses on structure-based drug design to develop novel drug targets against N. fowleri. Additionally, I am working to develop phenotypic drug screening assays to complement our high-throughput drug discovery. I am fascinated by N. fowleri because it is such a mysterious, deadly organism. Though infections may not be as common as other parasitic diseases, nearly all cases of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) are fatal. This amoeba is grossly understudied; very few labs in the world research this organism. It is both a privilege and a challenge to be able to work on this neglected parasite.
Have you done any fieldwork or is there a collaborator/field site that you would like to visit in order to enhance your training?
I hope to complete an internship with the Task Force for Global Health. This internship will ideally include fieldwork with one of their neglected tropical disease programs.
What are your future professional plans?
Going forward, I would like to continue my career in neglected tropical diseases with an emphasis on global health. I am particularly interested in a career involving field research. Ultimately, I hope to work for a government agency like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or a non-profit organization focused on neglected tropical diseases.
What is your favorite thing about Athens?
My favorite thing about Athens is the food! There is such a variety of local restaurants and new restaurants are continually opening. Coming from a small undergraduate institution, I really enjoy the atmosphere of a large university in a small college town. Athens is a very easy city to feel “at home”.
Any advice for a student interested in this field?
Never be afraid to reach out for help, wherever you need it! Coming into graduate school can be intimidating and at times, isolating. There are so many people eager to help you on your graduate school journey and ultimately want to see you succeed. Particularly within the CTEGD, I have always been met with kind and willing responses. All it takes is for you to take the step and reach out!