Position: Research Associate in the Winzeler lab
Projects: Westenberger has been involved in advancing ongoing projects in the lab, as well as opening the doors to new research directions. His projects have included:
- Investigations on the gene expression of the major species of malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum to help identify gene function and coexpression.
- Studies comparing transcription (the synthesis of RNA from a DNA template) among different species of malaria parasites to try to find out which gene expression profiles are conserved across species and why.
- Studies focusing on how histone modifications and chromatin remodeling affects gene expression to better understand the cell biology of the parasite.
- Westenberger is also launching a collaborative project with researchers at the University of Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru on Plasmodium vivax, a species of malaria parasite that is not commonly studied because it cannot be grown in culture. "I'm excited about the possibilities of looking directly at the host-parasite interaction. There's so much we don't understand."
Started at Scripps Research: July 2006
Thoughts on Scripps Research: "Scripps has some of the best science in the world and provides a wonderful environment for collaborations and interactions. I am also lucky to have a supportive boss, who has encouraged me to explore new areas of research."
Career Goals: A position in academia, while continuing international collaborations to advance knowledge about parasitic diseases.
Background: Westenberger grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and earned a B.S. from the University of Texas, Austin. He spent a year in Brazil as an intern with the Brazilian environmental agency, EMBRAPA, on a World Bank-funded project on plant genetics aimed at preserving genetic diversity. Westenberger's Ph.D. work with Professor David Campbell at the University of California, Los Angeles, focused on trypanosomes, a class of parasites that cause African sleeping sickness and Chagas disease.
Professional Activities: In his role as president of the Scripps Research Society of Fellows (SOF), Westenberger has focused on expanding the institute's career-related offerings—such as seminars, symposia, and internships—in conjunction with the Scripps Research Office of Career and Postdoctoral Services. Westenberger has also reached out to other institutions on the Torrey Pines mesa to co-host social and professional events, most recently the Summer Bash, which was offered with postdoctoral associations at the University of California, San Diego, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Burnham Institute for Medical Research, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. "There are so many great minds on the Torrey Pines mesa. Who knows what kind of collaborations will grow out of getting people together?"
Other Activities: Biking, especially around Mission Bay, and surfing.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu
Scott Westenberger, president of the Scripps Research Society of Fellows, conducts research on malaria in the laboratory of Associate Professor Elizabeth Winzeler.