Q&A With Summer Student Alexa Stewart: The Microbiome

Alexandra Stewart, Summer Student
Alexa Stewart is a member of the 2019 JAX Summer Student Program, studying the microbiome in the lab of assistant professor Julia Oh, Ph.D. She is a rising sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Why is the microbiome an important area of research?

All of us have tiny ecosystems in our body consisting of bacteria, viruses, and host cells. If we want to understand how our chemical therapies work for human cells, we must account for them!

What first sparked your interest in science?

As a kid, my parents brought me to science museums. Any form of interactive exhibit, model, kit…you name it, and we probably have seen it!

What have you learned so far during your time at The Jackson Laboratory that you did not know before?

I came to the laboratory knowing very little about the microbiome and its interactions with the immune system. Now I understand where the line is between what we know and what we don’t know about the microbial interactions with their host, especially in terms of immunity. 

What have you learned from your mentors at JAX?

I rely on my mentors for help interpreting data, answering questions, and planning next steps for experiments. The interesting thing is, they know enough about what I’m doing to answer my questions.

What are your future aspirations?

I aspire to develop programs to help expose inner city high school students to opportunities in science.