Peter Burnham

Position title: Postdoc


Website: ORCID Profile

In 2015, I received my B.S. in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech. As an undergraduate, I worked in the T.M. Murali lab where I predicted viral dependency factors from human protein-protein interaction networks. In 2020, I received a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where I worked in the David Hendrixson lab. My dissertation research focused on understanding the bacterial signaling linked to different stages of flagellar formation in polarly flagellated bacteria. I found that MS- and C-ring formation stimulates rod and hook gene expression in V. cholerae and P. aeruginosa and that this regulatory checkpoint also appeared to act a feedback inhibition mechanism for early flagellar gene expression in V. cholerae. I joined the Cameron Currie laboratory in 2020 as a post-doctoral researcher.

Outside of work, I enjoy board games and reading about current events and world history.

Research Overview

Over the course of my dissertation work, I developed an appreciation for how bacterial traits that may have been selected for survival in an environmental context, such as flagellar motility for chemotaxis toward a nutrient source, can be a foundation for future associations with hosts (flagella allow bacterial gut pathogens to reach their intestinal niche).My research approach combines molecular bacterial gene and protein studies with phylogenetic and genomic analysis to piece together the evolutionary history of bacteria and their hosts through examination of the conservation and mechanisms of bacterial genes and proteins important for bacterial colonization.As a postdoctoral research in the Currie lab, I am studying how Pseudonocardia, a protective symbiont of attine ants, is adapted to colonize the attine cuticle. I am also studying the secretomes of insect-associated Streptomyces to understand what makes these Streptomyces strains particular adept at degrading cellulosic plant biomass.