Cultivating Curiosity in Science
Pascale Guiton joins the Department of Biology at SCU, giving students the opportunity to join the Guiton Lab.
By Sarah Stoddard '23
This month, the Department of Biology at Santa Clara University is thrilled to welcome a new Assistant Professor. Pascale Guiton will bring to SCU an expertise in parasitology, immunology, and infectious diseases. SCU students will be able to join the Guiton Lab and conduct research on Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogen of both medical and veterinary importance.
T. gondii infection, which occurs following the ingestion of contaminated water, vegetables, and undercooked meat from chronically infected animals, can result in severe disease in immunocompromised individuals such as patients with HIV or transplant patients. The parasite can also cross the placenta to infect the fetus in newly infected pregnant women. No effective therapy currently exists to treat chronic toxoplasmosis. This presents serious challenges if a chronically infected individual becomes immunocompromised.
“There are many aspects of T. gondii biology we know very little about,” Guiton explains. “Our lab aims to uncover novel differentiation and virulence determinants, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, and understand the molecular regulation of gene expression during developmental differentiation.”
Guiton’s interest in science began with a small flower called the Pride of China. Guiton grew up in the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In middle school, she completed an exercise in her science class where she was tasked with studying a plant and creating an herbarium. As she continued in this class, Guiton discovered that she flourished in the subjects of biology and chemistry. Although her school didn’t have access to the internet or any computer equipment necessary for complex scientific experiments, she enjoyed the theoretical aspect of her classes, and her curiosity continued to grow. Guiton found creative ways to indulge this curiosity–for instance, she practiced what she learned about anatomy in the kitchen when she cut open a chicken to prepare a meal. Eventually, she found her niche in the microbial world, specifically pathogenic microbes and the intricate processes at the host-pathogen interface.
When she entered high school, she began studying microbiology and disease. “There are a lot of people who are sick in the Ivory Coast,” Guiton says in a podcast interview for Black in Science with Jasmin Giles. People would come to class with large wounds, many of her friends suffered from malaria, and her family had sickle cell traits. “At that time, I thought, okay, medicine is something that I could do to help people,” she explains. “Feeling helpless wasn’t too fun. That was my journey into my interest in science.”
Guiton completed her undergraduate training at Georgia State University studying Biological Sciences where she was introduced to scientific research investigating the agent of strep throat. She subsequently obtained her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis studying catheter-associated urinary tract infections, then completed her postdoctoral work at Stanford University studying Toxoplasma gondii. Most recently, Guiton worked as an Assistant Professor at Cal State East Bay where she accomplished great research in her lab working primarily with undergraduate students from around the Bay Area.
In her lab and in the classroom, Guiton hopes to give her students a space to cultivate their own curiosity in science. Each student is mentored according to their needs and career goals, and Guiton emphasizes cross-cultural understanding, equity, inclusiveness, and compassion.
“As an immigrant and a Black woman in science, I understand the challenges that students and faculty from historically excluded and underprivileged communities encounter at institutions of higher education,” Guiton says. “I am excited to join the faculty at SCU and look forward to engaging with colleagues and students from all backgrounds in a supportive and collaborative environment where I can share my passion for microbiology, introduce students to the rigor and the thrill of scientific research, discovery, and innovation, and provide opportunities for students to connect with science in a way that enriches their day-to-day lives and contributes to making them fully informed citizens.”
I am excited to join the faculty at SCU and look forward to engaging with colleagues and students from all backgrounds in a supportive and collaborative environment where I can share my passion for microbiology, introduce students to the rigor and the thrill of scientific research, discovery, and innovation, and provide opportunities for students to connect with science in a way that enriches their day-to-day lives and contributes to making them fully informed citizens
Find out more about the Guiton Lab.