I have been very fortunate to spend this week at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO. The university agreed to temporarily appoint me as a Visiting Scientist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, starting on October 1st and continuing through the end of 2015. As a result, my short-term “retirement” is at an end. One may reasonably ask just what I am doing that justifies my appointment as temporary faculty. In this post, I will try to explain our goals for this appointment.
The research at Colorado State is a natural bridge between the work carried out in my prior laboratory and the work in which I will be engaged in South Africa. In the last couple of years, my team has begun work on algorithms for lipid identification. My last graduate student at my former institution produced results that enabled him to give an oral presentation at the 2015 American Society of Mass Spectrometry meeting. We are now completing the publication of his innovations.
Lipid mass spectrometry is a very big deal at Colorado State. Research teams here have interrogated the lipids associated with infectious disease, with a particular emphasis on the Mycobacteria. M. tuberculosis has drawn their attention because of its impact on human health. Bacteria are far more diverse in the biochemistry that they deploy than are animals. Many of the lipids produced by M. tuberculosis are specific to this organism, and understanding the functional role played by these lipids can help us to understand better how the bug interacts with human tissue.
Colorado State has been making considerable headway in deploying tandem mass spectrometry to yield inventories of bacterial lipids (their lipidomes), and my lab has developed software to identify major classes of lipids from tandem mass spectra. If we can extend our software to handle the glycosylated lipids of M. tuberculosis, we will greatly improve their ability to translate data into knowledge.
Perhaps the best irony of my appointment is that the graduate student who wrote the lipid identification software spent much of his life living right here in Colorado!