Roberta O'Connor

Associate Professor


I am a molecular parasitologist with a particular interest in apicomplexan host-parasite interactions.Although my lab now focuses on drug discovery, I still have research interests in the molecular and immune interactions that allow parasites to infect and persist in their host.We also focus on establishing new methods for culturing parasites that better mimic the host environment. In addition to my research, I have taught students at all levels from high school to graduate school and I greatly enjoy mentoring and inspiring my students to be great scientists and well-rounded humans.


Research Summary

My laboratory focuses on natural product drug discovery for diseases caused by apicomplexan parasites.Because ocean flora and fauna are a rich source of unusual compounds, we screen marine sources for anti-parasitic compounds. One of our compounds currently under investigation came from a symbiotic bacterium of shipworms, marine clams that eat wood.Our parasites of interest are Cryptosporidium and Toxoplasma gondii.Once we have identified compounds effective against these parasites, and that are not toxic to host cells, we try to identify the target of the compound using a variety of techniques such as forward genetics, RNAseq, and proteomics.To improve our screening assays and parasite culture techniques we work with intestinal organoids from a variety of species. Promising compounds are further investigated for their pharmacokinetic properties and efficacy in vivo.