Jennifer Hill
Assistant Professor (Coming June 2024)
Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology

Jennifer Hill is a microbiome scientist who studies the interface between the pancreas and resident microbes in the gut. During her training, Dr. Hill identified a role for the microbiota in the development of insulin-producing beta-cells. Specifically, germ-free or sterile animals experience significantly decreased beta-cell expansion in early life. This decrease in insulin-production capacity has important consequences for metabolic homeostasis and disease susceptibility. Using gnotobiotic mouse models, the focus of the Hill Lab is to dissect out the specific contributions of unique members of the infant microbiota on these important host developmental processes. Ultimately, by studying how microbes and pancreatic cells interact, Dr. Hill hopes to develop novel microbe-inspired therapeutics for pancreatic diseases such as diabetes. 

Dr. Hill has a long history of training in microbiology and pancreatic development that has led to her lab’s research trajectory. Jennifer earned her B.S. from Humboldt State University in 2010, where she investigated the genetic diversity of bacterial extremophiles. She then completed a post-bac fellowship at UCSF in Didier Stainier’s lab studying the developmental biology of beta-cells in zebrafish. Her dissertation work at University of Oregon (completed 2017) in Karen Guillemin’s lab was a unique marriage of her two previous experiences. She discovered a novel bacterial protein that can induce zebrafish beta-cell proliferation. Interested in the translational potential of these findings, Jennifer continued this line of research in her postdoc at the University of Utah where she studied the conservation of microbe-driven beta-cell development in mice under the co-mentorship of June Round and Charlie Murtaugh. In 2022, Dr. Hill was the recipient of the NOSTER & Science Microbiome Prize, established to reward innovative research by young investigators working on functional attributes of the microbiota that have the potential to contribute to our understanding of human health. Jennifer will join the BioFrontiers faculty and start her lab in June 2024.