Aimee was born in Oregon, in a tiny coastal town (population 1000) so remote there was no radio or TV station. There, she developed an early interest in caring for sick newborns when her very first pet– a feral kitten she adopted– developed encephalitis. Her mother treated the kitten with IM penicillin and syringe feeds, and the patient survived with a normal lifespan, albeit with some cranial nerve deficits. Although the beauty of the southern Oregon Coast is unparalleled, opportunities in that region were limited. Her family moved to rural northern Nevada, which seemed practically urban in comparison, in pursuit of a better education for Aimee and her sisters. Shortly after moving to the least populous state in the union, Aimee represented Nevada in the National Spelling Bee, long before it was on ESPN (she did not win, or even come close).
Her family’s move to Nevada paid off: after graduating from high school, Aimee attended Cornell University during the time period her contemporaries would recognize as the pumpkin-on-the-clock-tower era. She majored in Chemistry and French Literature, and continued to engage some of her artistic interests, participating in choral groups and several plays (for any classics enthusiasts, the highlight of her dramatic career was playing Clytemnestra in a production of “Agamemnon”). Aimee went on to attend medical school here at Washington University, and then moved to New York City to do her residency in Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Jacobi. Living and working in the Bronx was less of a culture shock than expected, considering her extremely rural origins. She ultimately fell in love with the fast pace and challenge of the NICU, and returned to St Louis for a Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine fellowship at Washington University, and joined the Newborn Medicine faculty after graduation.
Aimee’s early formal research experience as an undergraduate was not especially promising—she spent a summer at IBM synthesizing a large star-branched molecule that turned out to be completely insoluble and useless, and later raised alfalfa snout beetles in an entomology lab. However, some of her extracurricular pursuits presaged her developing interest in microbiology. Much to the chagrin of her college housemates, she had an array of jars of sourdough starter, testing how varying the bacterial species and culture medium would influence the taste and texture of the bread. She later developed a process for making lactose-free coconut yogurt at home that even included food-grade agar. So when she joined the gut microbiome-focused lab of Dr. Gautam Dantas, her academic interest blossomed. Her early work in the Dantas lab examined on the genetic diversity of antibiotic resistance genes harbored by the gut microbiota of healthy children. More recently, she has focused on clinical determinants of metabolic functions in the developing gut bacterial community of healthy infants, and she is continuing to investigate the contribution of gut bacteria to host nutrition and drug metabolism.
Outside of work, Aimee enjoys spending time with her husband and family, which includes two children and two dogs that are the size of adult humans. Her husband Michael also has a connection to the Division of Newborn Medicine—a few months into their relationship he asked Aimee if she knew a Dr. Sessions Cole. It turned out Dr. Cole was his physician when he was a patient in the very NICU where Aimee now works. Her children Stella and Ronan think her research is hilarious because it’s poop. She occasionally competes in powerlifting, and has encouraged some other female physicians to get involved in strength sports (shown: 303lb deadlift, which is equal to the weight of 2.1 SensorMedics high frequency oscillatory ventilators). She would like to say she enjoys drawing and painting, but more accurately, she has an impressive array of art supplies she hopes one day to have time to use.