Like a police detective, Amalee Nunnally is looking for a killer. But instead of a blue uniform and badge, Amalee wears a white lab coat. A junior microbiology major, she is engaged in a research project to detect a pathogen, Clostridium difficile, in the Flagstaff soil.

Clostridium difficile is common worldwide and in severe cases can cause death. By gene sequencing the pathogens she finds in soil samples from 50 locations around Flagstaff, Amalee can match them with those found in Flagstaff hospital patients and trace the source of Clostridium difficile in these patients.

Her work in the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute gave Amalee opportunities she never imagined possible for an undergraduate and uncovered in her a passion for research.

“I always envisioned that as an undergraduate, I’d only be somebody’s research assistant, washing dishes and taking out trash and doing those kinds of things. But the opportunity they give us here is unreal. I am working with very expensive reagents and very important samples. That’s really empowering when you’re not even 21 yet.”

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