Christopher Whidbey, Ph.D.
Building/Room: BANN 517
Teaching and Research Interests
Dr. Whidbey’s research group is multidisciplinary, and brings together biochemistry, microbiology, and chemical biology to study microbial communities, especially those related to maternal-child health. We are currently studying mechanisms of interaction between the host and the different microbes present in the vaginal tract, collectively known as the vaginal microbiota. Certain species in the vaginal microbiota are associated with decreased risk of preterm birth, though the mechanisms are unclear. The overall goal of this research is to better understand what allows a healthy microbiota to persist in the vaginal tract and how this can help reduce the risk of preterm birth. We are also interested in developing and applying chemical biology tools to other aspects of public health, including how humans respond to pollutants, biodegradation of environmental contaminants, and synthesis of bioactive molecules such as antibiotics.
Dr. Whidbey’s teaching interests include chemistry for non-majors, general chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical biology.
Dr. Whidbey is from Washington state, growing up in Tacoma, Seattle, and Ellensburg. He is a Seattle University alum, graduating in 2010 with majors in Chemistry, Biology, and Philosophy. He then earned a Ph.D. in Pathobiology from the University of Washington, where he studied the neonatal pathogen group B Streptococcus (GBS) with Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Specifically, he applied chemical and biological tools to investigate how a lipid toxin produced by GBS contributes to intrauterine infection during pregnancy.
In 2015 Dr. Whidbey became a Postdoctorate Research Associate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Working with Dr. Aaron Wright, Dr. Whidbey designed and applied small-molecule, activity-based probes to study how microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract help break down dietary compounds and other metabolites. He taught Biochemistry and Microbiology at Washington State University – Tri-Cities as well as mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate researchers. He joined the faculty of Seattle University as an assistant professor of Chemistry in 2018.