The quest for answers

The quest for answers

UF scientist’s work focused on one of the most common STDs

By Marissa Lyons

Scott Grieshaber/Photo by Maria Belen Farias

For Scott Grieshaber, Ph.D., science has been a lifelong love. In school, he was always fond of science class because it satisfied his curiosity. In particular, he was drawn to biology.

“I really enjoyed discovering how things work,” said Grieshaber, an assistant professor in the College of Dentistry’s department of oral biology.

It was at UF that he found a scientific environment where he could flourish, primarily studying the interaction between host cells and bacteria.

“The collaborative environment is definitely something I enjoy about being at UF,” Grieshaber said. “You can always find someone to talk to about science.”

Currently, he is a guest lecturer in several courses, including microbiology and oral biology. His research interests focus on the basic biology of the bacterial disease chlamydia trachomatis, the most commonly reported sexually transmitted disease and the most frequent cause of preventable blindness throughout the world.

Grieshaber said he is trying to determine how chlamydia hijacks components of the cell to set up its replicating niche. He is also interested in the consequences on the host cell.

Chlamydia must use the cell in order to survive. It invades the cell, replicates inside the cell and then kills the cell. This is how the disease progresses. Grieshaber said he works in hope of fully understanding how chlamydia goes through its life cycle so that one day a vaccine or better drugs can be developed.

He received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from Colorado State University and his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Wyoming. He did his postdoctoral work at the Rocky Mountain Labs, a division of the National Institutes of Health, in Montana.

Grieshaber said he likes finding answers. He particularly likes studying chlamydia because it is an obligate intracellular bacterium, allowing him to combine his passion for both microbiology and cell biology.

He joined the UF faculty in the spring of 2006. Setting up his lab at UF took about one year, and Grieshaber said it has been one of his greatest accomplishments. Starting with an empty room and building the lab from scratch was a very rewarding experience, he said.

Grieshaber supervises several students and their research. In his lab, he works with three graduate students, one postdoctoral student and one technician.

“They have been terrific,” he said. “They have probably taught me more about running a lab than I have taught them about science.”

They all have individual thesis projects that are helping to answer the larger question of the lab: how chlamydia can exploit the host cell for its replication. Grieshaber oversees all of their work.

He also acts as a mentor to the students. He gets them as incoming graduate students, helps them choose their classes, guides them through the research experience and gives them career advice.

One aspect of conducting research Grieshaber stresses to the students he works with is the importance of clearly presenting the data found.

They recently showed that chlamydia uses the microtubule network to traffic within cells, he said. This affects replication of the host cell, or cell division.

“I hope my studies continue to add to our basic knowledge of how humans and disease-causing organisms interact at the cellular and molecular levels,” Grieshaber said.