New Science Professors Tackle Research in Microbiology, Physics

Nov. 15, 2018

Dr. Bruce Novak

The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UT Dallas added two tenure-track faculty members this year, with research interests in microbiology and quantum physics.

Dr. Nicole De Nisco joined the Department of Biological Sciences and Dr. Michael Kolodrubetz joined the Department of Physics, both as assistant professors.

“The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is going after the very small and the very large,” said Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the school and Distinguished Chair in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Dr. Kolodrubetz adds to our faculty members who are studying materials at the atomic level and their bizarre behavior. We also have very robust research efforts in microbiology and infectious diseases, and Dr. De Nisco brings expertise in those areas, including studying disease-causing bacteria and new approaches to controlling their populations.”

Novak said the school also is in the planning stages of a new academic program that combines environmental sciences and energy.

“We envision a program that tackles large-scale issues and prepares students to address topics from planetwide water resources to atmospheric science to energy exploration,” he said.

In addition, construction continues on the 186,000-square-foot, multistory Science Building, which is expected to be completed in spring 2020. It will house the Department of Physics, the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, and several classrooms, offices, and teaching and research labs.

The school comprises six departments: biological sciences, chemistry and biochemistrygeosciencesmathematical sciences, physics, and science and math education.

New Tenure-Track Faculty

Dr. Nicole De Nisco

Dr. Nicole De Nisco, assistant professor of biological sciences

Previously: postdoctoral fellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Research interests: microbiology, cell biology, immunology, infectious disease, antibiotic resistance, recurrent urinary tract infections, molecular basis of microbial pathogenesis

Quote: “I study host-pathogen interactions, with my current research focusing on recurrent urinary tract infections in post-menopausal women. This group is most affected by the disease, yet there is little research in this demographic. I have a clinical collaboration with a urologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center that allows us to study the disease in this patient population. On the host side, I think estrogen status, age-associated immune decline and the bladder microbiome likely all play a role in recurrence of these infections, but our current knowledge in these areas is limited. For the science that I want to do and the collaborations I’m involved with, UT Dallas is the perfect place to be. Plus, I love teaching and working with undergraduates — they add so much energy to campus.”

Dr. Michael Kolodrubetz

Dr. Michael Kolodrubetz, assistant professor of physics

Previously: postdoctoral researcher, University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Research interests: theoretical quantum dynamics, non-equilibrium quantum physics, periodically driven (Floquet) systems

Quote: “I’m interested in quantum systems such as atoms, where we’ve intentionally removed all couplings to the outside world, enabling an impressive degree of control. This type of non-equilibrium quantum system is no longer one that we can describe with classical thermodynamics. My research group tries to discover universal phenomena in this novel dynamical setting. I chose UT Dallas in part because of its impressive growth, particularly in areas of physics such as topological states of matter and quantum engineering that are relevant to my research and represent important future directions in the field.”

SUFU 2018: Understanding the Pathogens Responsible for Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Postmenopausal Women

Austin, TX ( The work with murine models has shown that uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) is able to invade the bladder urothelium and form intracellular reservoirs. Dr. Nicole De Nisco and colleagues analyzed a cohort of postmenopausal women undergoing cystoscopy with fulguration of trigonitis (CFT) for treatment of RUTI after multiple failed antibiotic courses.

They had bladder biopsies and urine from women meeting study criteria for antibiotic-refractory RUTIs and with office-based evidence of chronic cystitis on flexible cystoscopy. All samples were obtained in the operating room under anesthesia following a rigorous protocol. Antibiotics were discontinued for at least one week prior to CFT. Tissue and urine samples were analyzed using both culture-based and molecular approaches to determine if intracellular bacterial reservoirs are present within the bladder urothelium. The methods included aseptic microbial culture, 16S rRNA fluorescence in situ hybridization, 16S rRNA variable (v4) region Illumina deep sequencing, as well as basic molecular biology and histological techniques.

They showed these preliminary studies of six post-menopausal RUTI patients with extensive cystitis cystica or pancystitis indicated that a variety of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria were present inside the bladder urothelium. Strikingly, negative urine cultures at the time of CFT were noted in some patients despite positive bacterial tissue sample findings.

In conclusion, they have found that diverse and unexpected bacterial species can invade the urothelium of severely infected post-menopausal RUTI patients. These intracellular bacterial reservoirs may explain the observed cycles of recurrence.

Presented by: Nicole De Nisco BS, PhD

Authors: Nicole De Nisco BS, PhD¹, Luming Chen BS², Marcela de Souza Santos PhD², Kelli Palmer PhD³, Kim Orth BS, MS, PhD² and Philippe Zimmern MD²

Author Information:
1. UT Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute;
2. UT Southwestern Medical Center
3. UTD

Written by: Bilal Farhan, MD, Female Urology Fellow and Voiding Dysfunction, Department of Urology, University of California, Irvine at the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine & Urogenital Reconstruction Winter Meeting (SUFU 2018), February 27-March 3, 2018, Austin, Texas