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Shailab Shrestha, MERGE-ID Ph.D. Candidate and Recipient of the Tufts GSBS Fellowship For International Students

Summer 2021 Featured Trainee:

Shailab Shrestha

  • PhD Candidate in Molecular Microbiology, MERGE-ID (Medically-oriented Research in Graduate Education – Infectious Disease) track at Tufts University’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Inaugural Recipient, Tufts University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Fellowship Supporting International Student Education, 2018

Shailab Shrestha is a third-year Molecular Microbiology Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Aimee Shen at Tufts University’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. As a trainee in the program’s MERGE-ID track (Medically-oriented Research in Graduate Education – Infectious Disease), he is working to gain both a strong foundation in biomedical science as well as an understanding of the clinical implications of his work. Shailab came to Tufts in 2018 as the inaugural recipient of the Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Fellowship Supporting International Student Education.

In the Shen lab, Shailab studies the process of spore formation, which is essential for the transmission and pathogenicity of Clostridioides difficile, the most common cause of hospital-acquired infections in the United States. C. difficile infections are associated with high rates of disease recurrence after antibiotic treatment due to the highly resistant nature of spores. Targeting the process of spore formation, therefore, represents a promising strategy for treating C. difficile infections.

Shailab is interested in gaining mechanistic insight into how C. difficile forms spores and, in the process, identifying unique targets that will inform the development of anti-sporulation therapeutics. He is currently characterizing different factors necessary for cell wall synthesis during growth and spore formation in C. difficile. Since cell wall targeting antibiotics have been among the most successful therapeutics against bacterial pathogens, the hope is that identifying potential factors involved in cell wall synthesis will facilitate the development of spore-specific therapies against C. difficile.

As his training continues, Shailab hopes to gain expertise in the mechanisms bacteria use to cause disease and evade treatment. His interactions and experiences with medical doctors through the MERGE-ID program and the Levy CIMAR have inspired him to explore more translational research in the future.

Shailab was born and raised in Nepal and moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Bard College in New York where he developed an appreciation for biological research. Shailab’s research experiences ranged from conducting fieldwork investigating the effects of polarized light on aquatic insects, researching a surface-attachment factor important for the pathogenicity of Vibrio cholerae, to investigating variation in antibiotic resistance and mutation rates between clinical and environmental strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Shailab’s undergraduate thesis project focused on identifying mutations responsible for antimicrobial peptide resistance in experimentally evolved lineages of Pseudomonas fluorescens. 

After graduating from Bard, Shailab worked as a research technician at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Wade, where he studied the endogenous CRISPR-Cas system in Salmonella enterica to develop a genome-wide CRISPRi screen to characterize novel gene functions.

Outside of the lab, Shailab’s interests include outreach and promoting diversity in science. He serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee in the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at the Tufts University School of Medicine. He is also peer mentor in the Summer@Micro program, where he advises undergraduate students interested in pursuing biomedical research. He also served as an organizing committee member for the 2021 Boston Bacterial Meeting, a conference that aims to promote and disseminate research by bacteriologists in training from the Boston area. Additionally, Shailab is interested in the visual arts, specifically painting. Somewhat unexpectedly, he says, skills he learned via art classes as an undergraduate have come in handy when visualizing data and models for his research.