Spotlight Story

Hyrum Gillespie
Combating and controlling antibiotic resistant “super bacteria”

Hyrum Gillespie is a Ph.D. candidate in the Integrated Genetics and Genomics program (Department of Plant Sciences), and an active member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology program at UC Davis. He earned a BS in crop science and biotechnology at Utah State University, where he graduated magna cum laude with minors in mathematics and Portuguese.

What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?

I study Pierce’s disease—a disease of grapevines that has caused millions of dollars of economic damage here in California—especially the bacterium that causes this disease, X. fastidiosa. In particular, I study the microscopic community in which this bacterium lives (microbiota), the resistant colonies it can establish (biofilms) and its methods of communication (quorum sensing). My work is widely applicable in both agriculture and human medicine, as researchers work to control and overcome disease-causing bacteria.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

I believe in the importance of working in teams when doing research, both in the lab and by way of networks. One can often judge the effectiveness of a lab by the cohesiveness of its members. For my part, I’m excited that my research may provide means to combat and control antibiotic-resistant “super bacteria” as well as many agricultural diseases besides Pierce’s disease. I believe collaborative and unified teams will most consistently yield progress and breakthroughs in this and other areas of research.

How will the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?

Researchers are often so focused on studying their area of expertise that they don’t explore the big picture of how to translate their research into something that will benefit society. I want to gain knowledge and insights into the formation and running of new businesses after an idea is formed, as well as experience judging which research may really be worth pursuing and bringing to market.