Faculty Feature Kristine Wylie

Kristine Wylie grew up in Wood River, Illinois. Her primary childhood occupations were riding her bike all over town with friends, swimming at the local pool, reading books from the library, and fighting with her younger sister (not necessarily in that order). Her grandparents bought her first microscope and chemistry set when she was 9, and while she found all of the safety warnings on the instructions intimidating, she persevered and made a variety of innocuous, colorful solutions in her first scientific endeavors at the bench. Now she enjoys helping kids get to do some of their first experiments through outreach programs at local schools.

In college she studied genetics and molecular biology. She worked on an undergraduate research project studying the development of pesticide resistance in flies. Part of that experience involved going to farms on the hottest days of the summer to catch flies with butterfly nets, only to return to the lab and stand in the cold room for hours to watch them literally “drop like flies” in the frigid temperatures. That was when she decided she was not cut out for fieldwork. Rather, she likes her science to take place indoors (72 degrees is nice), preferably in a lab with flashy technology. Luckily for her, at the time she was graduating from college, the Genome Sequencing Center (now the McDonnell Genome Institute) at Washington University was hiring technicians, and they had plenty of flashy technology! She joined the team, managed John McPherson’s physical mapping group, and worked on many large-scale sequencing projects, including the Human Genome Project.

After a few years, she headed back to school to get a Ph.D., joining the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Saint Louis University. There, in Lynda Morrison’s laboratory, she studied mechanisms that herpes simplex viruses use to evade the innate immune system. Her favorite parts of the work were making mutant viruses and testing their effects in wild-type and mutant cells and mice. Her least favorite parts were spending hours in the cold room purifying proteins and trying to avoid getting bitten by mice.

When it came time to look for a postdoctoral position, the Human Microbiome Project was just beginning, and it offered a unique opportunity to incorporate her previous experience in genomics with her work in virology. She joined George Weinstock’s group at WU, and led the effort to characterize the virome in the healthy subjects from the Human Microbiome Project. Much of this research was continued and expanded as Kristine moved from her post-doc position at the McDonnell Genome Institute into a faculty position in Pediatrics.  Kristine’s lab currently studies the microbiome and infections in pregnant women. The lab is trying to identify biomarkers for women at risk for preterm birth and to understand how bacteria and viruses contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Kristine enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband Todd (also an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics) and their 14-year-old son Jacob (a movie aficionado and drummer). They have two dogs, Lola and Murphy, who make sure Kristine doesn’t sleep in on her days off. In her spare time, Kristine loves to read novels, hike, and travel.

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