The Sigala lab will probe the biochemical pathways that allow malarial parasites to survive inside red blood cells. Like the human cells they infect, malarial parasites possess a nucleus and other subcellular organelles—a similarity that makes them difficult to kill without also harming their infected host. One thing that makes the Plasmodium parasite different is its apicoplast—a chloroplast-like organelle that contains its own small genome. Using a combination of cutting-edge techniques in molecular parasitology, biochemical engineering, and genome editing, we will selectively disable genes within the apicoplast and assess whether they serve an essential function for organelle maintenance and parasite survival. We will similarly target proteins that function within the apicoplast—including enzymes in a pathway that synthesizes beta carotene. By identifying genes and metabolic pathways unique to Plasmodium, our group will uncover new targets for the treatment of malaria—a devastating disease whose impact I observed firsthand during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer.