GPRC Alum's Princeton Research Tackles Antibiotic Resistance
Thursday, September 27th, 2018
Antibiotic resistance will be responsible for more than 10 million deaths per year by 2050 - but GPRC alumna Dr. Randi Guest hopes to help solve this problem through innovative research at a prestigious university.
Guest is currently researching antibiotic resistance with leading scientists at Princeton University’s department of molecular biology in Princeton, New Jersey. While she’s come a long way since starting the Bachelor of Science university transfer program at GPRC in 2007, she credits a significant part of her success to those early years and the instructors who taught her there.
“Some of the best instructors I have ever had over the 11 years I’ve been in school were at GPRC,” said Guest. “There was some sort of magic about them.
“Les Rawluk made chemistry so interesting to someone like myself who was more interested in biology. And John Sloan, who taught organic chemistry, would mark our assignments in front of us and if something was wrong he would explain what we could do differently next time. That one-on-one personalization was extremely valuable and something I want to emulate when I become a professor and teach undergraduates myself.
“It was an experience I wouldn’t have received at a larger institution. I will definitely use Les and John as role models to give my students the same care and attention they showed me.”
Guest went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree with honours in molecular genetics from the University of Alberta in 2012. A required class she took on research sparked an interest she never knew she had, and Guest subsequently decided she wanted to become a researcher. Under the supervision of Dr. Tracy Raivio, Guest completed her PhD at U of A, where her research examined how pathogenic bacteria adapt to environmental conditions in the mammalian gut.
Near the completion of her PhD, Dr. Thomas Silhavy, a Princeton researcher whose work she had been following closely, reached out to Guest’s supervisor for recommendations for postdoctoral students. Guest jumped at the opportunity and was offered the position; currently, she is studying the role of the outer shell of the bacterial cell and how it keeps antibiotics from penetrating it.
The long-term goal of her research is to develop new therapies for treating gastrointestinal infections.
“We hope that a better understanding of how this shell is made will one day lead to the development of new antibiotics or drugs that can be used in combination with existing antibiotics,” said Guest.
“I have found that research has been extremely interesting and challenging in the way no other career could be. Every day at work there is something new to be done. For a brief moment in time until I tell someone about it, I am the only person in the world who knows something about how bacteria operate—and that’s very exciting. Learning more about how bacteria cause disease is a very big deal and we need to get on top of that to fight the antibiotic resistance epidemic.”
While Guest has found her travels to larger cities and institutions have been extremely valuable for her career and learning more about herself and the world, she also praises the quality of education at smaller institutions.
“GPRC is where I experienced the highest quality of education and where I learned the most,” she said. “If I was giving advice to a high school student, I would advise them to look at the quality of education they would be getting, and not just the name.”