Erika Flores is in the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases program from the lab of Anne-Marie Krachler, PhD. She studied the validation of larval zebrafish as a model organism of adherent-invasive E. coli, which is associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Flores’ interest in science began in her first semester of her undergraduate studies.
Flores joined the GSBS in the summer of 2017. She found the support she needed and settled in the Krachler lab. Throughout her years as a PhD student, she has learned how to turn her lab failures into learning experiences. Flores has developed into an ambitious scientist and plans to pursue a career as a clinical lab director.
What ignited your passion for science?
I was introduced to microbiology, virology, and parasitology during my first semester of undergrad. I loved reading about these topics, and it was then that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in which I could simultaneously learn more about microorganisms and contribute to the medical field in some way.
Why did you choose the GSBS for your research education?
I enjoyed my summer internship in the MID department and the umbrella program the GSBS offered. Although I was almost sure I wanted to join the MID department, it was helpful to know that I could transition into a new program, if needed.
How did you choose a lab or advisor?
I was drawn to the lab of Anne-Marie Krachler, PhD, because at the time the lab’s research was focused on investigating how enteropathogens “sense” their environment. When I joined as a rotation student, I received a project that was completely different, but I decided to stay in the lab because I enjoyed my project and working with larval zebrafish. In addition, Dr. Krachler was also very supportive of my career and personal goals.
What is your current research about and how did you choose it?
My thesis is focused on validating larval zebrafish as a model organism of adherent-invasive E. coli, which is a pathogenic strain of E. coli associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The overall goal is to investigate whether key readouts of the infection in larvae reflect those observed in IBD patients colonized with this E. coli strain.
What goals do you have for your career?
After I graduate, my next goal is to enroll in a medical microbiology laboratory fellowship program and to ultimately obtain a career as a clinical lab director.
What has been your biggest success/failure?
So far, my biggest accomplishment has been defending my thesis, but smaller accomplishments include winning GSBS awards. Although I faced more failures in my experiments during my initial grad school years, the difference between failures then and now is that they don’t discourage me as much. On the contrary, failing experiments have taught me how to ask better questions, approach the problem from a different angle, and the importance of conducting thorough research prior to designing an experiment.
What advice would you give to a first-year student?
Grow thicker skin. This advice was given to me by a previous student, and it has helped me a lot. I think that it’s important to learn how to handle constructive criticism to become the best that you can be.
What’s something you like to do when you are not working in the lab?
I enjoy weight-lifting because it helps me clear my mind. I think this has also shaped me into a more disciplined and patient person.