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Faculty in Focus - Tanya Soule

Tanya Soule joined COAS’s Department of Biology in 2011. Soule has a microbiology research lab on campus, where she and her graduate and undergraduate research assistants use molecular techniques to study the ultraviolet radiation stress response of bacteria.

Soule’s interest in biology began in middle school when she first became interested in the life sciences. Yet, despite her interest in biology, Soule initially avoided declaring it as her major because, like many students, she was “intimidated by courses like calculus and chemistry.” However, by her sophomore year at Western Illinois University she decided to take on the challenge and switch her major to biology and pursue her passion for studying the living world.

Soule specialized in microbiology as an undergraduate, but she wasn’t exactly sure what to do with her degree after graduation. “Like many biology students, I was initially pre-med because I didn’t really know what to do with a biology degree. I also naively thought that doing research meant going to the library.” That all changed during the summer after her junior year when Soule participated in the NASA Spaceflight and Life Sciences Training Program at Kennedy Space Center. Through this program Soule was exposed to research on the molecular response of plants to simulated spaceflight stress conditions such as hypoxia and radiation. This experience is what ultimately led her to apply to graduate programs in biology.

As a PhD student at Arizona State University, she studied microbial survival strategies in extreme environments, specifically the desert, where ultraviolet radiation and low water and nutrient availability create unique challenges for living organisms. Her research focused on the biosynthesis of a natural sunscreen produced by some of these bacteria to survive under intense ultraviolet radiation. This line of research now serves as the foundation of her work at IPFW.

As a professor, Soule mentors graduate and undergraduate students involved in research projects related to ultraviolet stress adaptation and microbial ecology. There are currently four undergraduate research assistants in her lab (Janine Bennett, Justin Lothamer, Gabriela Romo, and Aaron Jones). Her recent graduate research assistants, Jacob Janssen and Sejuti Naurin, completed thesis projects on the regulation of sunscreen biosynthesis in May 2015. Most students who do research in Soule’s lab have been able to present their research at conferences and some have even served as coauthors on publications.

Soule encourages students to become involved in graduate and undergraduate research. Students who wish to do research in a campus lab can find out about faculty research interests by visiting the Department of Biology’s website. To work with individual faculty, students should contact them to see if they’re currently taking research assistants. To learn more about Soule’s research, watch the Faculty in Focus video. For more information on research opportunities in the Department of Biology, visit the department’s website or talk to a biology faculty member.