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Alexandra Stiffler

Alexandra Stiffler

2020 Goldwater Scholar


Indianapolis, IN


Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Sciences


College of Science


Stiffler earned the Goldwater Scholarship for her excellent undergraduate research. At Purdue, she has spent more than three years in the lab of Seema Mattoo, an assistant professor of biology, conducting research on Fic proteins, which act as enzymes that can modify other proteins in cells. When questioned about the connections, she says, “One would not think that research pertaining to protein interactions would apply to restoring and protecting coral reefs, but due to my experience I can identify how the two relate on a microbial level.” She continues, “Many biologists ask why organisms display a particular type of behavior. However, I seek to discover the “how” and am building a background in biochemistry and microbiology to do so. How does a specific organism infect its host cell? Once the mechanism is known, researchers can develop compounds that inhibit negative interactions between microbes and other organisms.” Whether beneficial or harmful, by understanding the ways that microbes interact with other species’ cells, Stiffler hopes to be able to encourage or impede interactions in ways that are most beneficial to the ecosystem.


In addition to her lab work, Stiffler pursues a variety of other ways to be involved. She interned with an ecological survey company while studying abroad in Lima, Peru. She served as the Secretary and Philanthropy Chair for her Cooperative House at Purdue and volunteered to make meals for the Lafayette Transitional Housing Center (LTHC). She is also a Learning Beyond the Classroom Ambassador at Purdue.