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Meet a Microbiologist: Juliana Ansari

Juliana Ansari is a laboratory supervisor with a predilection for probiotics. At Fairfield University, Juliana coordinates instructional biology labs and runs a research program with undergraduates. As a laboratory supervisor, Juliana designs lab activities, makes media, and maintains bacterial cultures and live animal collections.

Name: Dr. Juliana M. Ansari

Job title: Laboratory Supervisor, Microbiology & Organismal Biology

Institution: Fairfield University; Fairfield, CT

Website: Go Microbes

Twitter: @Symbiologica  

Juliana’s research focuses on how bacteria attach to and colonize plant and animal hosts. Currently, she is on a quest to find out what probiotic bacteria eat (i.e. what carbon sources they use) and which traits distinguish the strains in commercial products. As many probiotic bacteria are intended to colonize the gut, Juliana will test how these bacterial cells adhere to eukaryotic cells in culture, and analyze their genomes to identify surface and secreted proteins that play roles in adhesion.

Juliana with her kids. Image credit: Juliana Ansari.

To bring her research out of the lab and into the community, Juliana recently started The Probiotics Lab, an online shopping comparison tool based upon the bacteria in the probiotics. “With the Probiotics Lab the goal is to demystify the bacteria found in the seemingly limitless collection of probiotics on the market,” Juliana says. The Probiotics Lab features microscope photos that visually educate by revealing the beauty of bacteria and yeast cells. You can check out more of her photos at 500 px or her blog, Go Microbes.

Outside of her direct research areas, Juliana is excited about the discoveries about the role of the gut microbiome in health and personalized medicine. “I think personalized nutrition, including the involvement of our commensal bacteria, is a fascinating area in development,” Juliana says. She would love to work for a company that uses beneficial microbes for health, and dreams of running her own business one day.

Juliana identifies what probiotic bacteria eat using the BIOLOG Microbial ID system. Image credit: Juliana Ansari.

While her interests lie in probiotics and gut microbes now, her path to microbiology began with trees and flowers. For Juliana, the process of discovery in science is like finding out the next twist in a story. “I am fascinated by a good mystery — which living things always provide — and am delighted by the infinite diversity of bacterial metabolism and evolution,” Juliana says.

Juliana’s microbial doppelgänger: Serratia sp.
“I’ll go with red-pigmented Serratia because I love bright colors,” says Juliana. Serratia is an opportunistic human pathogen that can form biofilms on the respiratory and urinary tracts. One of the more defining characteristics of Serratia is its distinctly bright red color (from the red pigment prodigiosin).

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Meet a Microbiologist: Juliana Ansari by Jennifer Tsang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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