UK Gluck Center Welcomes Dr. Carrie Shaffer

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

The University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, recently welcomed Carrie Shaffer, PhD, as an assistant professor of microbiology.

Shaffer completed her undergraduate degree at UK, graduating with a bachelor’s of science in agriculture biotechnology, and earned her PhD from Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee, in microbiology and immunology. She performed post-doctoral research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and completed her post-doctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena.

Shaffer said she’d wanted to return to her home state since completing her undergraduate degree at UK. She said she wanted to come to the Gluck Center, specifically, to expand her research program to include equine infectious disease in addition to human medicine.

“I really love the facilities, the people in the department, and the diversity of research,” she said.

Shaffer also has a joint appointment with the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics, and is performing research on bacteria that affect both horses and humans.

With her research involving horses, she is undertaking a Rhodococcus equi project. She will be studying bacterial factors that affect colonization in the horse and trying to identify new bacterial genes that can be targeted for drug and vaccine development to prevent Rhodoccoal pneumonia in foals.

This research is important to the equine industry because of economic costs associated with treating and preventing bacterial infections in horses. Shaffer hopes to develop better diagnostic and prevention methods so that owners and veterinarians do not have to treat horses with unnecessary doses of antibiotics.

In her human research, Shaffer is studying bacteria that cause gastric cancer. Specifically, she is examining bacterial type IV secretion systems, which are molecular “machines” that bacteria use to inject different molecules into host cells. The transferred molecules allow the bacteria to colonize specific tissues and cause disease. She is studying how the bacteria builds these machines and engineer them to transfer DNA, protein, or other molecules to the host cell.

Shaffer is also guest lecturing in some agriculture biotechnology classes this fall. Additionally, she serves on graduate student committees in the Department of Medicine and is a member of the Gluck Center’s hospitality committee.

Katie Lampert is the marketing and communications intern at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center.

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