UNC Health Talk

When the White House takes notice . . .

The magazine Fast Company featured UNC’s Stephani Page, a graduate student in the lab of Bob Bourret, PhD, who studies signal transduction in microbes and plants. Fast Company was less interested in that and more interested in Page’s Twitter account and the hashtag she created, #BLACKandSTEM, to seek out like-minded minority scientists involved in science, technology, engineering, or math.

Her community grew quickly, and her posts gained the attention of the White House-affiliated Twitter handle, which sent tweets using Page’s hashtag.

Page told Fast Company, “When you give people a chance to say, ‘Here I am, and here’s what I do’ – it might be someone in that situation 500 miles away in Canada or Seattle or Detroit or Florida – you break down all of that distance.”

Page’s idea was to make it easier for black scientists to connect. As of March 14, more than 3,000 tweets have been sent with the hashtag #BLACKandSTEM.

Read the Fast Company story here.

As for her research, think of it like this: all organisms have to translate signals from an external environment so they can respond. You put information in a computer; it has to translate it to give you an appropriate response. In the tiny microbes that Page studies, that process is called signal transduction. Page works on things called two-component systems or TCSs, proteins responsible for processing signals from external stimuli.

These TCS’s are not found in humans, but like human signal transduction pathways, microbial TCSs use a chemical process called phosphorylation to encode the presence of external stimuli. Page is particularly interested in how cells regulate this process. The end goal is to find potential targets for drugs that could prevent or treat bacterial infections.

Page hopes to defend her dissertation this year.