Photo of Sandra C. Garrett, Ph.D.

Sandra C. Garrett, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Academic Office Location:
Genetics and Genome Sciences
UConn Health
400 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-6403
Phone: 860-357-1565

Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences

B.S.University of FloridaEntomology
M.S.University of FloridaEntomology
Ph.D.University of Puerto RicoBiology

Post-Graduate Training
PostdoctoralUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterPostdoctoral fellow, Laboratory of Dr. Brenton Graveley, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences

Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
Poster Presentation Award, 5 Year Anniversary MeetingInstitute of Systems Genomics
Travel Award (Funded Travel to the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, for Octopus Collection), San Juan, Puerto RicoPuerto Rican Society for Neuroscience, University of Puerto Rico
John A. Mulrennan ScholarDepartment of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida
National Merit Scholar With Full Scholarship to the University of FloridaNational Merit Scholarship Society
John and Myrtle Creighton ScholarDepartment of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida
Name & DescriptionCategoryRoleTypeScopeStart YearEnd Year
Bioinformatics JournalProfessional/Scientific JournalReviewerExternalNational2017
Entomological Society of AmericaProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberNational
Society for Vector EcologyProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberNational
Biophysical SocietyProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberNational
Society for Integrative and Comparative BiologyProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberNational

CRISPR-Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated genes) is an adaptive immune system found in a wide range of prokaryotes, from commensal bacteria to exotic extremophilic archaea. The development of CRISPR-Cas into a genome editing tool has revolutionized biology and it serves to highlight how efficient and sequence-specific this system is. In the native hosts, that efficiency and sequence specificity allow bacteria and archaea to quickly recognize and degrade DNA of invaders like phages. But before a prokaryote can mount a targeted defense, it must first have a memory of that invader. While the mechanics of invader targeting have been well studied, the process of CRISPR memory formation, termed adaptation, is relatively unexplored. My research is focused on this aspect of CRISPR biology.

There are many classes and subtypes of CRISPR-Cas found in a diverse range of prokaryotes, and it follows that there are many functional variations. However, there are key common features. First there is the CRISPR array, which acts as the repository for sequence information about invaders. A stretch of regulatory DNA is followed by a series of short, directed repeats, and in between those repeats lie the "spacers" which are short sequences with homology to invader DNA. The array is transcribed to produce the guide RNAs that allow for sequence specific targeting. Second, there are the proteins that work with and are encoded near the CRISPR array. These Cas proteins are involved in adaptation (acquisition of new spacers), processing the guide RNAs, and pairing with guide RNAs to carry out invader degradation. For my research, I apply the tools and strategies of high throughput sequencing and analysis to learn how new spacers are selected, processed, and incorporated into the CRISPR array. Long term, I aim to take what we learn and use it to better understand the genetics, population dynamics, and gene transfer capabilities of microbes.

Journal Articles

Title or AbstractTypeSponsor/EventDate/YearLocation
Unique features of CRISPR spacer acquisition by the Type III-A system of Streptococcus thermophilusTalkCRISPR 2021 Meeting2021Virtual, hosted by Institut Pasteur, Paris, France
CRISPR 2017 International Conference (poster)PosterCRISPR 2017 International Conference2017Big Sky, Montana
Institute of Systems Genomics 5 year Anniversary Meeting (poster)PosterInstitute of Systems Genomics2017Storrs, Connecticut
Eurkaryotic mRNA Processing MeetingPosterCold Spring Harbor Laboratory2015Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting (oral presentation)TalkSociety for Integrative and Comparative Biology2012Charleston, South Carolina
Biophysical Society Annual MeetingPosterBiophysical Society2009Boston, Massachusetts
36th Annual Society for Vector Ecology Conference (selected student speaker)TalkSociety for Vector Ecology2004Boston, Massachusetts