Student Spotlight

Danielle VermilyeaDanielle Vermilyea was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She attended the University of South Florida and graduated magna cum laude from the Honors College, with a bachelor’s in biology prior to entering the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP-BMS) at the University of Florida as a doctorate student in 2014.

Danielle’s undergraduate research experience provided her a background in microbiology and microbial ecology sparking her interest in bacterial biofilms (surface-associated bacterial communities surrounded by a protective extracellular matrix), which are difficult to treat and are often implicated in diseases characterized by chronic infections. As a result, after entering the IDP-BMS at UF, Danielle joined the lab of Dr. Mary Ellen Davey in the Department of Oral Biology whose research focuses on Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), an oral bacterium implicated in the etiology of chronic adult periodontitis due, in part, to its ability to form a biofilm.

In summer 2015, Danielle was appointed to the NIH T90 Comprehensive Training Program in Oral Biology. Under the T90, Danielle is investigating Pg and the impact of arginine availability on its physiology and ability to form a biofilm. This work resulted in an invitation to present a poster at the 7th American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Conference on Biofilms in Chicago, Illinois, where she was one of 22 students nationally to be awarded a Student Travel Grant from the ASM. Currently, Danielle is investigating how the expression of a novel bacterial enzyme, Porphyromonas peptidylarginine deiminase (PPAD), modulates arginine availability and, subsequently, Pg biofilm formation. She is preparing an NIH F31 grant proposal on this research to present at her admittance to candidacy exam later this semester after which she plans to submit.

While being funded by the T90 and the Department of Oral Biology, Danielle has the opportunity to present her ongoing research in the Oral Biology Research Conference every fall and spring. She has taken on leadership roles, such as helping to organize the visit of the spring 2016 student-invited speaker Dr. Todd Kitten from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, and stays involved by regularly attending the monthly College of Medicine Graduate Student Organization (COM-GSO) meetings where she previously served as a representative for the COM-GSO at the Graduate Student Council (GSC) general meetings. Ultimately, Danielle’s long-term career goal is to obtain a faculty position at an academic research institution, devoting her time to microbiological research and training the next generation of research scientists.