May 26, 2022 | Lauren Perkins Dr. Tanya Sysoeva, assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s College of Science, teaches a mix of biology and chemistry students and researches the problem of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. In the Sysoeva Lab, she leads students who analyze how bacteria interact and exchange their genetic material in native environments and research the pressing medical issue of increased antibiotic resistance of bacteria. Sysoeva emphasizes learning by doing so students get the most in-depth knowledge of their chosen field. “We strive to provide not only an academic education experience, but as much hands-on research experience as possible,” she says. “If a student is interested in any aspect of biology, we will find a relevant hands-on experience for them. And if we cannot do this, we will find a collaborator to partner with. We even have a relationship with NASA scientists to analyze germ samples from the International Space Station.” There are several organizations her students can join, including the UAH Biological Society, which introduces them to all of the ways they can be involved in the field of study through exposure to career opportunities, academic and professional speakers and opportunities to interact with like-minded peers. Sysoeva also leads a group of students in the iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) Foundation, which hosts an open, cooperative and friendly synthetic biology competition. “We are hoping to compete this November in Boston now that we’re coming back to in-person research and training. I think we have the biggest and enthusiastic iGEM team this year… and hopefully we will be successful.” Diversity of the student body and faculty adds a great deal to the learning experience as different points of view and backgrounds enrich the collaborative problem-solving process. To celebrate the recent International Women in Science Day, we had 11 young women discussing new, exciting science and results from their work,” she says, adding that this shows how science can and should be done – in a diverse environment with diverse role models for young researchers. In the laboratory, we are discussing drug resistance of urinary tract infections and how something so simple is still not being conquered. With the current increase in female specialists in the field of microbiome research and urology, we will have more voices to advocate for this essential research and to provide a deeper understanding required to solve this and many other predominantly women’s health issues. This summer, the Sysoeva Lab will host undergraduate students through the UAH Research and Creative Experience for Undergraduates program and high school students from underserved backgrounds through an Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) grant. READ MORE: UAH partners with AEOP to provide underrepresented students with hands-on STEM In these programs, students from different colleges and local schools will join together to do research in a lab for the summer semester. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to gain experience in research and decide on what they want to do for their career after they graduate,” Sysoeva says. This article was published in the May/June 2022 Issue of Diversity in Action magazine.