Next Generation: Daniela Tizabi

October 1, 2018

Next Generation: Daniela Tizabi

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Adviser: Russell Hill, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

What are you researching? My research focuses on marine natural products and drug discovery. I am studying the microbial community associated with a giant barrel sponge from the Caribbean, looking for compounds produced by these bacteria with anti-tubercular properties. Specifically, I am interested in a group of bacteria known as actinomycetes, that are known to produce many potent compounds with therapeutic potential, such as anti-cancer, antibacterial, and anti-fungal.

Why it makes a difference: With the drug resistance epidemic, it’s critical to find novel antibiotics where current treatments fail. An estimated one-third to one-fourth of the global population is currently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and several strains of this pathogen are completely resistant to treatment. Almost 2 million people died of tuberculosis in 2015 alone. Finding a new way to attack this bacterium and prevent infection could save many lives.

How did you get interested in environmental science? I chose to study marine science as an undergraduate because I was fascinated by the opportunity to explore a habitat that despite making up so much of our planet, remains to this day underexplored and pretty mysterious. As I took more courses, I became more interested in the relationship between ocean and human health. Eventually, I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in a field that merged my interests in environmental/marine science and public health.

Why choose the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? My program at UMCES began at the beginning of fall 2016. I decided to come to UMCES because of the great research coming from Dr. Hill’s lab. The lab had a great reputation investigating sponge microbiology that also led to the discovery of several compounds with significant biological activity. When I was offered the opportunity to probe a group of novel actinomycetes for pharmaceutical potential, I knew it would be a perfect fit.

Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. I really enjoy being a part of the UMCES community at IMET because we have such a culturally diverse group. We embrace this by taking advantage of opportunities to learn about our peers’ cultures as well as share our own. We’ve hosted past events, such as potlucks and hot pot nights, because, of course, the best way to learn about a culture is through the food!

What do you like to do in your free time? In my free time, I’m usually playing soccer or spending time outdoors. When I have more time I also enjoy learning languages and travelling.

What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? Recycle! And just be conscious of how much you’re consuming. Using your own water bottle or a set of non-disposable utensils at lunch time are some easy steps that can significantly reduce waste.

What are your future plans? Finding a way to combine my interests in research and travel would be ideal. I would love to continue studying natural products while exploring new new environments in remote locations.