About the Editor
Cheryl A. Nickerson, PhD, The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA
The Editor-in-Chief of npj Microgravity is Cheryl A. Nickerson, Professor in the School of Life Sciences, at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University in the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology.
Dr. Nickerson is internationally recognized for her pioneering research in utilizing the microgravity environment of spaceflight as a unique biomedical research platform to provide novel insight into how physical forces dictate the outcome of host-pathogen interactions that lead to infectious disease. Her landmark spaceflight experiments aboard the NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station, along with use of NASA designed ground-based microgravity analogues, laid the foundation for use of the microgravity platform for modern microbiological research in spaceflight. Her multidisciplinary research focuses on microbial and human cellular responses to the physical forces of fluid shear and/or gravity, which are relevant to those encountered during their natural lifecycles, how these responses are related to infectious disease, and ultimately conversion of this knowledge to translational applications. Her work has led to the discovery of i) a correlation between low fluid shear levels experienced by microbial pathogens in the quiescent microgravity of spaceflight or ground-based spaceflight analogues and those encountered in the infected host, ii) low fluid shear as a novel environmental signal that globally reprograms pathogens by altering gene expression, stress responses and virulence, through chemical and evolutionarily conserved molecular regulators, and iii) methods to engineer organotypic 3-D cell culture models as human surrogates to study host-microbe interactions and predict in vivo-like pathogenic mechanisms.
Dr. Nickerson is well recognized internationally for her work and has received several prestigious awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and was selected as a NASA Astronaut candidate finalist. She has testified before Congress regarding potential of the microgravity platform for next generation advances in biomedical research. In addition, Dr. Nickerson’s spaceflight biomedical research enabled the establishment of a rare Space Act Agreement between ASU and NASA to use the ISS National Laboratory for commercially-funded biomedical research.