Life Sciences & Bioengineering Center 4016
+1 (508) 8315000 x5917
Affiliated Department or Office
BA Smith College 2001
PhD University of California, San Diego 2008

I have a passion for understanding how living systems work, as well as for sharing my love of biology and research with the next generation of scientists and informed citizens.

The central goal of my lab is to understand the regulatory mechanisms that underlie mycobacterial stress tolerance. We combine genetics, genomics, transcriptomics and biochemistry to understand how mycobacteria respond to, and ultimately survive, stressful conditions.

Our guiding principles are curiosity, respect, and scientific rigor. Together we strive to push the boundaries of knowledge and advance our field by addressing basic research questions that hold the keys to advancements in human health and understanding of the natural world.

To treat many infectious diseases, including the global scourge of tuberculosis, doctors must do battle with a wily adversary, bacteria. Unfortunately for afflicted patients, bacteria have also acquired strategies for thwarting attacks from the immune system and the onslaught of antibiotic drugs. We need to know more about the strategies bacteria use to survive stresses. Biology and biotechnology professor, Scarlet Shell, is seeking to do just that by probing the molecular changes that underlie these mechanisms.

Scholarly Work

Martini, M.C., Hicks, N.D., Xiao, J., Barbier, T., Sixsmith, J., Fortune, S.M., and Shell, S.S. Loss of RNase J leads to multi-drug tolerance and accumulation of highly structured mRNA fragments in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. bioRxiv. 2022.02.13.480260; doi: 10.1101/2022.02.13.480260.

Martini, M.C., Sun, H., and Shell, S.S. 2021. RNA sequencing for transcript 5'-end mapping in mycobacteria. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2314, 513-531. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1460-0_22.

Martini, M.C., Zhang, T., Williams, J.T., Abramovitch, R.B., Weathers, P.J., and Shell, S.S. (2020) Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra extracts exhibit strong bactericidal activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 262:113191. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113191.

Randall, S.E.*, Martini, M.C.*, Zhou, Y., Joubran, S.R., and Shell, S.S. (2020). MamA essentiality in Mycobacterium smegmatis is explained by the presence of an apparent cognate restriction endonuclease. BMC Research Notes. 13(1):462. doi: 10.1186/s13104-020-05302-z.
*Joint first authors.

Vargas-Blanco, D.A., and Shell, S.S. (2020). Regulation of mRNA Stability During Bacterial Stress Responses. Frontiers in Microbiology. 11:2111. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.02111.

Nguyen, T.G.*, Vargas-Blanco, D.A.*, Roberts, L.A, and Shell, S.S. (2020). The impact of leadered and leaderless gene structures on translation efficiency, transcript stability, and predicted transcription rates in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Journal of Bacteriology. doi: 10.1128/JB.00746-19
*Joint first authors.

Professional Highlights & Honors
Board of Trustees Award for Outstanding Advising, 2019
Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarship, 2020


WPI Professor Receives $1.1 Million Grant for Bacteria Study

Scarlet Shell, assistant professor of biology and biotechnology, has received a $1.1 million CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for a five-year program to study the molecular mechanisms bacteria use to survive stressful conditions of starvation and lack of oxygen.