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  • Writer's pictureVedant Parikh

Lab Notes on: Dr. Jessica C. Seeliger

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Gabrielle Alli's notes on Dr. Jessica Seeliger, a professor of pharmacological science, molecular genetics, microbiology, and chemistry at Stony Brook University.

 

Dr. Jessica C. Seeliger is an associate professor at Stony Brook University whose specialties include pharmacological science, molecular genetics/microbiology, and chemistry. She is principal investigator of the JSeeliger Lab, which focuses on exploring unique aspects of Mycobacteria. Dr. Seeliger’s passion for research began in high school as she seized the opportunity to pursue chemistry research at a local university, utilizing spectroscopy to understand the nature of bonds in molecules. There, she realized her love for both the people and the kind of work that occurs in lab environments.


Dr. Seeliger would go on to pursue further research as an undergraduate at Harvard University, using carbon nanotubes as high-resolution probes in atomic force microscopy. This led to the introduction of biological systems in her studies. While pursuing her master’s degree, she investigated protein folding and began work with live cells. All of these experiences culminated in her research as a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, where she would use spectroscopy while studying proteins.


After experiencing research in a variety of settings, Dr. Seeliger established the JSeeliger Lab at Stony Brook University in fall 2010 through the Department of Pharmacological Sciences. JSeeliger Lab’s first projects built upon research done earlier in Dr. Seeliger’s career, one such example including work with riboswitches¹. Riboswitches are naturally occurring regulatory elements that control protein expression. The JSeeliger Lab team utilized these while investigating gene expression in Mycobacteria to create a simpler system that allowed control over their subjects of interest.


One of Dr. Seeliger’s favorite projects involved the improvement of a method to tag proteins, more specifically those found in the cell wall of Mycobacterium, which is known as proximity labeling¹. Proximity labeling utilizes an enzyme found in plants called peroxidase.While Dr. Seeliger appreciates the science behind this research, she is also fascinated by the role that people played in developing its premise. Early graduate students working with her had encountered APEX2 peroxidase in mammalian cells and realized that its traits would make it suitable for use in Mycobacteria. From there, a series of high school students and undergraduates contributed to the research. Dr. Seeliger found it exciting to see young people both develop and continue the investigation process, eventually leading to interesting results.


The JSeeliger Lab has collaborated with Manhattan BioSolutions through a biotechnology branch at Stony Brook, which helps researchers commercialize products and create useful industry connections. Similar to many in the biotechnology field at this time, Manhattan BioSolutions had a particular interest in immunotherapy, a type of disease treatment that involves stimulation of the immune response. Since they already have an FDA-approved strain of Mycobacterium bovis used to treat early stage bladder cancer, the familiarity that the JSeeliger Lab has in engineering and characterizing Mycobacteria was appealing. Together, Manhattan BioSolutions and the JSeeliger Lab worked towards the improvement and expansion of Mycobacteria use in immunotherapy aimed towards cancer treatment. Difficulties in funding have led the project to a halt, although there were promising primary indications of efficacy.


Dr. Seeliger believes that the best lab environments are made up of people with varying skill sets and abilities. The mix of excitement from undergraduates and experience from post-doctoral fellows creates a motivating, positive environment for all. Emphasizing her strong connection to the people in lab settings, Dr. Seeliger says, “Science is a human enterprise.” The research process is much more than just the discoveries made. It is learning and working alongside others, despite the inevitable mistakes, to realize the greatest potential of an idea.

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