FEMS Yeast Research Best Elevator Talk: Darian Santana

We send our congratulations to Darian Santana, who won the best ECR elevator talk at the Candida and Candidiasis conference. This award is sponsored by our journal FEMS Yeast Research

The Candida and Candidiasis conference took place on 13-17 May 2023 in Montréal, Canada.

Read our interview with Darian about his research below:




What is your current position, and what was your scientific journey to get there?

I am currently a Ph.D. student in the O’Meara lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School (Michigan, USA). Concurrent with my Ph.D. research, I’ve completed an M.S. in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Prior to attending graduate school, I earned my B.S. in Microbiology from Weber State University (Utah, USA) and worked for four years as a senior analyst for a commercial microbiology testing company, Nelson Laboratories, LLC. (Utah, USA).


Could you describe the research your talk covered?

The work I presented at Candida and Candidiasis 2023 focused on understanding the ability of the emerging fungal pathogen Candida auris to robustly colonize clinically relevant substrates. For C. auris, rampant colonization of inert surfaces, fomites, and patient skin is a hallmark of outbreak persistence and spread. We took a functional genetics approach to explore the molecular mechanisms driving surface association in this organism and explored the extensibility of our findings to diverse clinical isolates of C. auris sourced from around the world. Our research suggests C. auris has evolved unique genetic and biochemical mechanisms for surface association. We hope that our findings can inform further investigation into the enigmatic emergence, pathogenicity, and outbreak potential of this organism.


What do you hope to focus your research on in the future?

My current research highlights the unique biology that allows for surface association in C. auris, but in future work, I’d like to explore the functional implications of this biology in the context of C. auris outbreaks and emergence. By combining molecular discovery with epidemiologic investigation of C. auris adaptation in the scale of individual outbreaks, I hope to be able to understand the importance of the surface association mechanisms I’ve uncovered as they relate to transmission and persistence of C. auris in healthcare settings.


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