Joey Kesteloot

Joey Kesteloot, Undergraduate student, microbiology

Cracks bacterial defenses

“Joey is an excellent candidate for the Dare to Discover campaign as he was born and raised in small town Iowa, came to the university to study microbiology and discovered a passion for research here.” -Lilliana Radoshevich, assistant professor, microbiology and immunology

Hometown: Knoxville, Iowa

Faculty mentor/advisor: Lilliana Radoshevich, PhD, assistant professor, microbiology and immunology, Carver College of Medicine

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Microbiology BS, 2023

Please describe your research: The work of Radoshevich’s laboratory is to investigate host-pathogen interactions, with the aim of understanding our body’s response to infection within the cell. Certain proteins found in our cells have been shown to be important in our defenses because of their ability to alter proteins on microbial invaders that enter a cell. We have identified a surface protein on the food-borne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes called Lmo2839, a target of these modifications after infection. My project centers on investigating how this surface protein contributes to infection severity by creating a mutant L. monocytogenes that lacks Lmo2839.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? L. monocytogenes is a food-borne pathogen that causes the disease listeriosis. There are about 1,600 listeriosis cases per year in the United States with a mortality rate of 20-30%. Listeriosis primarily affects the elderly, by causing meningitis, and pregnant women, by causing fetal infection that can tragically result in spontaneous abortion. Characterizing the role of Lmo2839 in L. monocytogenes infection will help us identify the role of intracellular defenses and bacterial survival during disease. Overall, this will lead to a greater understanding of L. monocytogenes virulence and could help lead to the development of better treatments for listeriosis.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began participating in research at the beginning of my third year.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? It has taught me that oftentimes failure is a necessary part of the learning process both within academia and beyond. Sometimes experiments do not go as planned. However, through failure, you acquire the experience to troubleshoot and think critically about what you are trying to accomplish. With that, you can continue to push forward with renewed perspective.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation, I intend to take a gap year and work as an EMT/firefighter while applying to medical school.

Banner location: Downtown—Washington St., in front of Subway