Sheila Kitchen is broadly interested in understanding unique cellular processes and molecular pathways involved in microorganisms' communication with their environments or hosts. In 2010, Kitchen entered the Weis lab where her Ph.D. research interests are centered on investigating the mechanisms involved in cell signaling processes in marine symbiotic cnidarians during symbiont uptake and coral bleaching. Communication through cell signaling allows the cnidarian's host and its endosymbiotic algae to perceive and respond to their microenvironment initiating homeostasis, inter- and intracellular recognition, immunity, and apoptosis mechanisms (yet these processes are still poorly understood in this system). Specifically, Kitchen's current research will address manipulations of the lipid sphingosine rheostat by the symbiotic algae during infection and symbiosis breakdown. She will also investigate how these processes are connected to important secondary messengers, such as calcium, within the host cell.