Aug 03, 2023 | Paola Pinto Katie Lott ('22), a recent graduate from the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, part of the University of Alabama System, demonstrates a determined curiosity for science and exploration. Driven by her unwavering passion for biology, she has positioned herself to make significant research contributions that address the urgent global soil health crisis, foster food production, and improve the natural environment. "I first became interested in biology as a career during my high school biology class," Lott says. Her enthusiasm and curiosity were also evident during her college years, as she appreciated classes like Microbial Genetics. Her interest took her beyond her concentration area, discovering intriguing classes like Biogeography and Bioethics. Currently, Lott is a researcher and lab manager at CHONEX in HudsonAlpha; her groundbreaking work is improving soil health by adding a microbial concentrate developed using black soldier fly larvae. "I get to work at the intersection of microbiology and plant/soil science, which is a really interesting niche," Lott says. Some of her projects include exploring the diversity of microbes' “mode of action” and functionality on soil and plant health. "I love seeing the huge diversity of microbes in the soil; it's always so exciting to find a new colony morphology, and sometimes they can be really pretty or cool looking," she says. Through her active involvement in CHONEX, Lott's research plans to combat the soil health crisis and work towards a sustainable future for the planet. As she highlights, "We are in a worldwide soil health crisis. Around 1/3 - 1/2 of the Earth's soil is now degraded, sapped of the nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that differentiate 'soil' from 'dirt'. This severely reduces the ability to support crops. It's really exciting to be part of a company that is working to directly alleviate this issue, and to know that my work every day is helping to sustain food production for the planet and improve the health of our natural environment." Throughout her academic pursuit, Lott found inspiration in the trailblazing women scientists who have impacted history. The invaluable guidance provided by mentors has also been an integral part of her growth. She expresses heartfelt gratitude to the professors, principal investigators, and mentors who have shaped her educational career and professional trajectory. Noteworthy among these luminaries are Paul Wolf, Joseph Ng, Lawana Adcock, Luis Cruz-Vera at UAH’s Department of Biological Sciences, Yo-Ann Velez Justiniano, Chelsi Cassilly at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Sofia Andreola at HudsonAlpha, among others. Her thesis advisor, Dr. Tanya Sysoeva, and the lab under her guidance offered a dynamic environment where Lott absorbed the essence of scientific inquiry. These leaders collectively fueled her determination to attain excellence in biology. Central to her academic pursuit was her thesis project, which focused on exploring the structure and function of the TraT protein. "My advice for current biology students would be to try to get to know your professors and ask questions, look into undergraduate research even if you're not planning on attending grad school," Lott says. Practical experience gained through research, lab work, or field studies adds value to job applications and opens doors to exciting career prospects. "Learn how to read and understand a scientific journal article as soon as you can," she advises. Katie Lott's remarkable journey is a bright example of the transformative education offered by the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. As an institution, we are committed to empowering students to explore their passions, make significant research contributions, and address pressing global challenges for a sustainable future.