Josh Shak 

MD/PhD Student
BA, Biology, Amherst College

I am generally interested in bacteria that cause serious diseases but spend the majority of their time in the environment or as asymptomatic commensals of humans. My PhD dissertation is on the bacterial population dynamics of nasopharyngeal colonization by Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus to its friends). Specifically, I am studying molecular mechanisms of pneumococcal biofilm formation and the interbacterial dynamics of pneumococcal colonization. Pneumococcal biofilms are active during both colonization and the pathogenesis of pneumonia and otitis media. By better understanding the molecular and regulatory mechanisms that allow for biofilm assembly and disassembly, we will gain knowledge about what precipitates the switch from the commensal lifestyle to pathogenesis. I am also examining how S. pneumoniae interacts with other opportunistic pathogens in the nasopharynx including S. aureus, H. influenzae, and M. catarrhalis. When not in the lab, I enjoy cycling, whitewater kayaking, baking bread, ad fire-escape gardening.