2020 Election Candidate Statements and Biographical Information
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Damon B. Pfeiffer Professor in the Life Sciences, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
Genetics has been the foundation of my research, beginning with my PhD work on the illustrious bithorax complex. My interest in developmental gene regulation evolved from transcriptional control underlying segmental identity to post-transcriptional control of maternal genes required to establish the body axes in the first place – and thus from transcription factors to RNA-binding proteins. Over the past 26 years at Princeton University, my lab has harnessed the power of Drosophila genetics to investigate mechanisms of mRNA localization, stability, and translational control in the Drosophila egg and nervous system. Although my responsibilities have multiplied, I have never given up my love for the bench and can often be found setting up crosses in our fly room.
I have greatly enjoyed working with the GSA, serving as Mid-Atlantic Representative and then President of the Drosophila Board of Directors, co-chair of the Annual Drosophila Conference, and currently as an Associate Editor for G3. As President of the Drosophila Board, I established the Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Award, which fosters engagement of talented undergraduates in genetics research by enabling them to attend the Annual Drosophila Conference. I also led efforts to increase public awareness of genetics research, generating publicity like a BBC News story on “the mutant fruit flies that tell us about human disease.”
I would be honored to serve the GSA as your Vice President. Geneticists come in many flavors. We represent a broad constituency working on wide-ranging research problems using diverse model organisms. We may be PIs or students, researchers or clinicians or teachers, or some combination of these. We are united by our use of the awesome power of genetics to advance human knowledge. The GSA plays an indispensable role in harnessing the strength of this diverse community by bringing us together in ways that empower both our research and our teaching. I am excited to contribute to the GSA’s larger efforts to foster interactions that span disciplines and generations, to promote careers of young scientists, to advocate for model organism research, and to increase science literacy within society. Most importantly, I have worked actively on Princeton’s diversity and inclusion initiatives at both the student and faculty level and I hope to bring this experience to bear on the GSA’s efforts to eliminate racism in science.
1982: B.S., Dept. of Biology, Yale University
1990: Ph.D., Dept. of Biochemistry, Stanford University Medical Center
1990: M.D., Stanford University Medical School
1978–1980: Undergraduate Summer Fellowship, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Dept. of Embryology, Laboratory of Dr. Steven L. McKnight
1981: Summer Research Assistant, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Laboratory of Dr. Gary S. Hayward
1981–1982: Senior Thesis Research, Department of Biology, Yale University, Laboratory of Dr. Joseph G. Gall
1982–1990: Medical Scientist Training Program, Dept. of Biochemistry, Stanford University Medical Center, Laboratory of Dr. David S. Hogness
1990–1994: Post-doctoral Fellow, Whitehead Institute, Laboratory of Dr. Ruth Lehman
1994–2001: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
2001–2008: Associate Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
2006–2007: Sabbatical, Laboratory of Dr. Andrea Brand, Cambridge University, UK
2008–present: Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
2011–present: Associate Faculty, Princeton Neuroscience Institute
2014–present: Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Molecular Biology
Honors and Awards
1982: Edgar J. Boell Biology Prize (Senior Thesis Research), Yale University
1982: Summa cum laude, Yale University
1982: Phi Beta Kappa, Yale University
1982–1989: Medical Scientist Training Program Trainee, Stanford University
1990–1993: Postdoctoral Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Cancer Research
1993–1994: Postdoctoral Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
1995–1999: NSF Early Career Development Award
1997–2000: Beckman Young Investigator Award
2006–2007: Clare Hall Visiting Fellow, Cambridge UK
2007–present: Clare Hall Life Member, Cambridge UK
2009: Larry Sandler Memorial Award for best Drosophila Ph.D. thesis to T. Weil
2011–2012: President, The North American Drosophila Board of Directors
2014: Princeton Innovation Award
2016: Damon B. Pfeiffer Endowed Professorship in the Life Sciences
1995: Planning Committee for new Cellular Biochemistry course
1995–1996: Media Committee
1996: Chair, Departmental Seminar Series
1996: Faculty Advisor, “RNA Today” Symposium (Graduate Program-sponsored symposium)
1996–1997: Special Opportunities Job Search Committee
1997, 1998: Departmental Retreat Co-chair
2002–2005: Undergraduate Committee
2002–2011: Princeton Director, Princeton/RWJMS/UMDNJ (Joint) MD/PhD Program
2003: Committee on Tenure and Retention
2003–2011: Admissions Committee, Joint MD/PhD Program
2004–2005: Departmental Representative, Seniors
2006–2011: Steering Committee, Joint M.D./Ph.D. Program; Academic Affairs Committee, Joint M.D./Ph.D. Program; Curriculum Committee, Joint MD/PhD Program
2010–present: Departmental Graduate Curriculum Committee
2010–2011: Developmental Biology Search Committee
2011–2012: Chair, Developmental Biology Search Committee
2012–present: Advisory Committee, Princeton/RWJMS/UMDNJ MD/PhD Program
2012–2018: Faculty Supervisor, Confocal Microscopy Facility
2013–present: Chair, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee
2014–present: Director of Undergraduate Studies
2014–present: Executive Committee
2015–2016: Chair, Cellular Dynamics and Development faculty search
2016–2017: Development and Cell Biology faculty search committee
2018–: Faculty Supervisor, Drosophila Media Facility
1997: Panel participant, Women in Science and Engineering Panel for incoming Freshman
2000–2004: Freshman/Sophomore Adviser, Mathey College
2001–2006: Radiation Safety Committee
2003: Princeton University Freshman Parents Day panel participant
2003–2004: President’s Task Force on Health and Well-Being
2005–2006: Committee on Postdoctoral Research Staff
2005–2007: Fellow, Rockefeller College
2006: Childcare Working Group
2007–2015: Chair, Radiation Safety Committee
2007–present: Fellow, Whitman College
2007–2008: UHS Executive Director Search Committee
2008–2010: Healthier Princeton Advisory Board
2008: Panelist, “Many Faces of Science”
2010: Committee on Postdoctoral Appointments
2011–present: Student Health Plan Advisory Board
2012–2013: Dean of Faculty Online Course Committee
2012–2015: Campus Recreation Committee
2013: Women in Science Colloquium, Keynote Speaker
2015–2016: President’s Task Force on General Education
2017–present: Curriculum Committee, Center for Statistics and Machine Learning
2017–present: HPA Committee on the Health Professions
2018–present: Faculty Committee on the Course of Study
2019: Selection Committee for President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching
2019–present: President’s Advisory Committee on Architecture
2020– : Faculty Advisory Committee on Diversity
1996–2002: American Society for Cell Biology Education Committee, Graduate Education Subcommittee
9/99: Panelist, Career Day Program, Roland Park Country School
2000: American Society for Cell Biology Program Committee
2001: Consultant, New York State Board of Education
2001–2003: Temporary member, NIH Genetics Study Section
2002–2009: Faculty of 1000
2004: NSF Animal Developmental Mechanisms Review Panel
2006: Riverside Elementary School Science Day Participant
2007: Ph.D. Viva Examiner, Gurdon Institute, Cambridge University
2007: External Ph.D. Thesis Examiner, University of Toronto
2007: External Ph.D. Thesis Examiner, Skirball Institute, NYU Medical School
2007–2010: Mid-Atlantic Representative, The North American Drosophila Board
2009–2010: Hunter College HHMI Faculty Development Program Mentor
2010–2011: Mentor, The College of New Jersey Advancement Program (NSF-funded)
2010–2011:President-elect, The North American Drosophila Board
2010–2013: Mid-Atlantic Representative, Society of Developmental Biology Board of Directors
2011–2012: President, The North American Drosophila Board
2011: External reviewer, Harvard MCO Graduate Program
2011: Ad Hoc reviewer, Endocrinology, Metabolism, Nutrition and Reproductive Sciences review panel (NIH)
2012: DEV2 Review panel temporary member (NIH)
2012–2014: Chair, Drosophila Board Communications Committee
2013–2015: Genetics Society of America Communications Committee
2014–2018: Organizing Committee, EMBO Crete Drosophila Conference
2016: Ad hoc member, NIGMS Council
2018: Intramural site visit team member, NCI Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology
Associate Editor, G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Editorial Boards: RNA Biology, Current Opinion in Genetics & Development
Reviewer: Nature journals, Cell journals, Curr. Biol., Development, Dev. Biol., EMBO Journal, PNAS, PLoS, RNA, Genetics, Mech. Dev., Dev. Dynam., ELife
Ad hoc reviewer: NIH, NSF
My lab’s research interests lie at the interface of RNA biology and development. In nearly every animal, at least one embryonic division occurs before transcription begins; thus, the earliest developmental events must rely on maternally supplied transcripts. These transcripts require layers of spatial and temporal regulation, and the interplay of processes like mRNA transport, translational control, and mRNA degradation have presented exciting challenges for deciphering post-transcriptional mechanisms and their impact on development. Over the past 26 years, my laboratory at Princeton University has made major contributions to our understanding of these mechanisms using the genetically tractable Drosophila model organism. Our earlier studies of maternal transcripts whose localization within the oocyte is essential for development of the major embryonic body axes and the segregation of the germline from the soma have led to our current interests in RNA granules and their role in germline development. Synergistic aspects of our work include biochemical studies of translational control mechanisms and the function of RNA-binding proteins and post-transcriptional regulation in neuronal development.
E. Jane Hubbard
Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Department of Pathology, Skirball Institute, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
I am honored to run for the office of Vice President of the Genetics Society of America. GSA was my first professional society. When I joined, I thought genetics was awesome. But what an amazing time it is for genetics now! The discoveries and challenges of our time offer many opportunities for GSA. I am passionate about new opportunities for science, people, and communication, as described further below.
Science: My lab currently studies the intersection of organismal physiology and germline stem cells in C. elegans, but my scientific background includes coral reef ecology and fisheries as well as molecular genetics of Drosophila and yeast. I am therefore in a good position to represent the broad interests of the GSA membership and to appreciate emerging fields. While traditional model organism research continues to drive discovery, new technologies – especially the combination of omics and genome editing – have extended its reach. Examples include functional analysis of human genetic disease variants in model organisms, genetic access to once intractable organisms (e.g., human pathogens and vectors, extremophiles, and organisms at key evolutionary nodes), and multi-genetic models to investigate inter-organism biology, such as host-commensal interactions. Genetics technologies also offer creative solutions to problems associated with climate change, pollution, and food supply. GSA conferences and other activities that foster interdisciplinary science are crucial to these and to as-yet-unimagined emerging fields.
People: In science, we face longstanding barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to actively change those aspects of the culture of science that prop up such barriers. As the recent President of the International C. elegans Board (a.k.a. WormBoard), I promoted several initiatives geared toward rectifying past inequities, including restructuring of the Board and establishing community-wide career mentoring. I support GSA’s programs in professional development at all career stages, and the leveraging of these and new programs to overcome existing barriers. GSA’s programs can transcend boundaries of sub-fields, academic institutions, and countries. I also support additional practical guidance for researchers with young families, the creation of mechanisms for meaningful involvement of retired academic scientists, and growing the GSA membership beyond academia.
Communication: Genetics is on the public radar, be it SARS-CoV-2 or 23andMe. Nevertheless, the discovery process is underappreciated, as is the difficulty, rigor, and passion with which it is pursued. We must nurture public understanding of and trust in science and scientists to inspire budding scientists, dispose of outmoded stereotypes, convey how science works, and enhance public support for research. From my experiences in high school outreach and in undergraduate, graduate, and medical school teaching, I recognize outreach and education as important arms of science communication. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated new creative means to communicate science across time and space, exemplified by GSA’s speedy and successful pivot to the virtual TAGC meeting last April. I would build on these innovations to support GSA’s missions to educate, facilitate collaboration, promote careers in science, and engage public discourse.
I am committed to working with the GSA community, leadership, and staff to build on GSA’s current strategic plan in these and other areas.
1981: BA, Biology, Cornell University
1987: MS, Zoology, University of Hawaii
1993: PhD, Genetics and Development, Columbia University
1981-1982: Research Assistant, Section of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University and West Indies Laboratory, St. Croix. Laboratory of Dr. William N. McFarland. Coral Reef Ecology.
1982-1985: Biologist, US Peace Corps. Western Samoa, Fiji. Fisheries.
1985-1987: Masters Student, Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii. Advisor: Dr. Michael G. Hadfield. Gastropod metamorphosis.
1987: Research Assistant, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University. Laboratory of Dr. Corey Goodman. Drosophila laminin genes.
1987-1988: Research Assistant, Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University. Laboratory of Dr. Gary Struhl. Drosophila patterning.
1988-1993: Graduate Student, Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University. Laboratory of Dr. Marian Carlson. Saccharomyces cerevisiae glucose repression, AMPK
1993-1997: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University. Laboratory of Dr. Iva Greenwald. C. elegans gonadogenesis, LIN-12/Notch signaling
1998-2007: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, New York University.
2007-2013: Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Skirball Institute, New York University School of Medicine
2013-present: Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Department of Pathology, Skirball Institute, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Honors and Awards
1981: BA cum laude, Cornell University
1985-1987: East-West Center Scholarship for MS in Zoology
1989-1991: NCI Predoctoral Training Grant in Cancer Biology
1993: Samuel W. Rover and Lewis Rover Award in Genetics and Development, Columbia University (Departmental thesis award)
1993-1996: Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship
1999-2001: March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award
2003: Golden Dozen Teaching Award, College of Arts and Sciences, New York University
2013: Keynote Speaker Annual Retreat, School of Molecular Biosciences, Center for Reproductive Biology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
2014: Invited Speaker, Reactive Systems: Modeling, Development and Analysis, A Conference Honoring Professor David Harel, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
2015-2019: US/East Regional representative, International C. elegans Board
2017: Invited speaker, Developmental Genetics Symposium NYU
2016: Keynote speaker, Graduate Symposium of the CECAD Research Center University of
Cologne, Cologne, Germany
2020: Invited speaker, Gerontology Society of America Meeting
2020-2021: acting President, International C. elegans Board
Grant review and related service:
2003: NIH NICHD Special Research Focus Group Meeting
2005: NSF, Genome Canada, NIH CMIR panel
2006: NIH DEV1 panel
2007: NSF, The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK
2008: NSF, NIH ZRG-1 (Feb, Jun) panel
2009: Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship Programme
2010: NSF, BSF (US-Israel Binational Science Foundation), NIH DEV1 panel
2011: Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship Programme, NIH ZRG-1 panel, NIH CMIR panel
2012: NSF Developmental Systems Cluster panel, Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship Programme
2012-2018: NIH Study Section Permanent member CMIR (Vice Chair 2014, 2017)
2018: NIH NIA Workshop on Cellular and Molecular Aging of the Reproductive System
2013: NIH NIA CITP RFA panel, NIH ZRG1 CB-P panel, NIH ZAG1 ZIJ-2 panel
2016: NIH ZAG1 ZIJ-2 panel
2018-2022: Damon Runyon Fellowship and Dale Frey Award Committees (Vice Chair 2019-2020, Chair 2021-2022)
2020: NIH ZAG1 ZIJ-P panel (Vice Chair)
New York University
1998-2005, 2007: Admissions and Awards Committee (Acting Chair 2004)
1998-2000, 2004: Curriculum Committee
1999-2006: Advisement Committee
1999-2003: Freshman Dialogue Series participant
2000-2001: Organizer/Judge, Undergraduate Research Conference Day
2000-2001: Undergraduate Borgman Prize/Phi Beta Kappa selection committee
2000-2001: “Celebrating recent advances in science” (participation led to C. elegans in high school labs at the United Nations School)
2001: NYU College of Arts and Science “Sunday at the Square”
2000-2004: Faculty Mentor Program
2001, 2003: Dean’s Undergraduate Research Grant selection committee
2001-2002: BA/MD interviewer
New York University School of Medicine
2007-present: MSTP and PhD Program interviewer
2007-present: Graduate and MSTP training faculty
2008-2010: DG Faculty Search Committee
2008-present: Perlmutter Cancer Center NYU Langone Health
2008-2009: OBGYN Chair Search Committee
2009-2019: RNAi/HTB Core Facility Advisory Committee
2009-present: Co-coordinator, Developmental Genetics, Skirball Institute
2010-2018: Genome Technology Center Advisory Committee
2010-present: Steering Committee, Kimmel Center for Stem Cell Biology
2011-present: Graduate Advisor, Stem Cell Biology Training Program
2012-present: Graduate Curriculum Committee
2013-2015: LCME Accreditation Faculty Subcommittee
2014-present: Skirball/Cell Biology Departmental Appointments and Promotions Committee
2014-present: Chair, Early Career Awards and Prizes committee
2018-present: Junior faculty mentoring committees
Professional Societies and Service:
1995-present: Genetics Society of America
2000-present: Society for Developmental Biology/FASEB
2009-present: The Harvey Society (Council representative 2019-present)
2011-present: Simons Foundation Science Series
2017-present: American Society for Cell Biology
2018: Genetics Society of America Nominating Committee
Reviewer (ad hoc):
Science, Cell, eLife, Nature Communications, PNAS, Current Biology, Cell Reports, Dev Cell, EMBO, PLoS Pathogen, Journal of Cell Biology, Development, PLoS Genetics, Molecular Systems Biology, Genome Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Aging Cell, Journal of Pathology, Mechanisms of Development, Integrative Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Genesis, Jove, Molecular Reproduction and Development; Academic Press, Garland Science
1998-2010: Co-organizer, New York Area Worm meetings
2000: Session Chair, East Coast Worm meeting, Atlanta, GA
2003: Session Chair, 14th International C. elegans Meeting, Los Angeles, CA
2005: Session Chair, International Workshop on Realistic Modeling of Biological Systems, Mizpe Hayamim, Israel
2010: Scientific organizing committee, EMBO Conference Series: C. elegans Development and Gene expression, Heidelberg, Germany
2012: Co-organizer, C. elegans Development, Cell Biology and Gene expression Topic Meeting, Madison WI
2013: Co-organizer, Skirball Symposium “Metabolism: from Molecules to Behavior”
2014: Scientific organizing committee, C. elegans Development, Cell Biology and Gene Expression Meeting, Nara, Japan
2014: Co-organizer, Germ Cells, Cold Spring Harbor Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
2016: Co-organizer, Skirball Symposium “Germ Cells and Beyond”
2016: Scientific organizing committee, TAGC Genetics Society of America meeting, Orlando, FL
2017: Scientific Organizing Committee, 21st International C. elegans Conference, Los Angeles, CA
2018: Scientific Organizing Committee, C. elegans Development, Cell Biology and Gene Expression Meeting, Barcelona, Spain
2019: Scientific Organizing Committee, 22nd International C. elegans Conference, Los Angeles, CA
2019: Co-organizer, 12th Annual Developmental Genetics Symposium “Metabolism in Development and Disease”, New York, NY
Our current focus is on the effects of diet and aging on stem cells. We study these questions using C. elegans germline stem cells as a model. Our recent work has shown that conserved signaling pathways alter stem cells in response to aging and environment (food, pheromone). Due to the highly conserved nature of cellular processes, and to the many shared features of stem cells, our work informs an understanding of these interactions in all organisms, including humans, with potential impact on the fields of stem cell biology, aging biology, cancer, parasitology, and regenerative medicine.
Professor, University of Pittsburgh
I am honored to be a nominee for the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America. In many ways, my independent career has been shaped and supported by my longstanding involvement in the GSA and its important initiatives. I have been a member of the GSA since my postdoctoral studies. I have served as Associate Editor (from 2011 to 2013) and currently as Senior Editor of Gene Expression for GENETICS (since 2013) and as Chair of the Gene Expression program committee for the Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting and TAGC (since 2012). As a professor at a large research university, my roles are diverse and have ranged from directing my NIH-funded research lab in gene regulation to teaching undergraduate classes in genetics to serving as Director of Graduate Studies. I am passionate about the importance of genetics research in addressing the challenges facing current and future generations, and I am acutely aware of the importance of integrating research, teaching and mentoring to raise scientific understanding in our country. Through my many experiences with the GSA, I have had the privilege of working with world-class geneticists who value a system in which practicing scientists are at the leading edge of developing society initiatives, publication standards and innovations, educational and mentoring programs that train the next generations of geneticists, and meaningful approaches toward addressing racial injustice in our profession. These are values I believe in, and I am looking forward to bringing my experience to the GSA Board of Directors to continue the vital missions of this unique society.
1988: Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley; Dissertation: Studies of transcription termination by E. coli RNA polymerase
1983: B.S., Department of Biochemistry, Pennsylvania State University
2009 – present: Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
2001 – 2009: Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1994 – 2001: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1989 – 1993: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Laboratory of Dr. Fred Winston
1988 – 1989: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Laboratory of Dr. Michael J. Chamberlin
1983 – 1988: Graduate Student, Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley, Laboratory of Dr. Michael J. Chamberlin
1983 Summer: Research Assistant, Div. of Chemical Polymers, Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, Laboratory of Dr. Dinshaw J. Patel
1981 – 1983: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Biochemistry, Pennsylvania State University, Laboratory of Dr. Kenneth A. Johnson
Honors and Awards
2017: Elected AAAS Fellow
2013: Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
2000-2005: NIH Independent Scientist Award
1996-2001: NSF Early Career Development Award
1995-1998: American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award
1992-1993: American Cancer Society Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship
1989-1992: Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship
1984-1987: National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
1983-1988: Bell Laboratories Graduate Research Program Grant
1980-1983: University Scholars Program, Pennsylvania State University
1983: Alumni Association Senior Prize in Biological Sciences, Pennsylvania State University
1982, 1983: Evan Pugh Scholar, Pennsylvania State University
1983: Phi Beta Kappa, elected
1983: Phi Kappa Phi, elected
1982: Phi Lambda Upsilon–Chemistry Honor Society, elected
2020: Session Chair, The Allied Genetics Conference (virtual)
2019: NIH Site Visit Reviewer, NCI RNA Biology Laboratory, Frederick, MD
2019: NIH Site Visit Reviewer, NICHD Intramural Program, Bethesda, MD
2019: Session Chair, Chromatin and Epigenetic Regulation of Transcription Meeting, 38th Summer Symposium in Molecular Biology, Penn State University
2018, 2019: Invited Lecturer, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory courses in Yeast Genetics and Genomics and Epigenetics and Gene Expression
2017: NIH review panel for MIRA (R35) grants
2016, 2017: Temporary member NIH MGA study section
2015: NIH Site Visit Reviewer, Cell Regulation and Development Division, NIH, Bethesda, MD
2015: Session Chair, Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
2014-present: Co-organizer of ASBMB Transcriptional Regulation Symposium, Snowbird, UT (conference dates: 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022)
2014: Session Chair, 2014 ASBMB Transcriptional Regulation Symposium, Snowbird, UT
2013-present: Senior Editor, Genetics
2013: External reviewer of Department of Biology, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
2013-2014: Co-organizer of scientific theme for 2014 ASBMB Annual Meeting, San Diego
2013: Temporary member of NIH MGA study section
2013: Co-organizer of research symposium in honor of postdoctoral advisor, Fred Winston
2013: Session Chair, Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
2012: Ad hoc reviewer, NIH ZRG1 F08-Q study section
2012: External thesis examiner for Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto
2012: Ad hoc reviewer, National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council, NIGMS, National Institutes of Health
2012-present: Program Committee, national Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting (Chair of Gene Expression subcommittee: 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020)
2011-2013: Associate Editor, Genetics
2011: Session Chair and Poster Judge, Chromatin and Epigenetic Regulation of Transcription Meeting, Penn State University 30th Summer Symposium in Molecular Biology
2007: Co-organizer of Gene Expression Workshop, XXIIIrd International Conference on Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology, Melbourne, Australia
2007: Ad hoc reviewer of grant to Swiss National Science Foundation
2006-2010: Member, NIH MGA study section
2006: NIH MGA program project grant review
2005-2007: Editorial Advisory Board for Molecular Microbiology
2004, 2006: Temporary member of NIH MGA study section
2004: Ad hoc reviewer of grant to Medical Research Council, UK
2004: External thesis examiner for Ph.D. student at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
2004: External thesis examiner for Ph.D. student at Harvard Medical School
2002: External thesis examiner for Ph.D. student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
2002: Temporary member of NIH MBC-2 study section
2001: Session Chair, Mechanisms of Eukaryotic Transcription Meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
2000: Ad hoc reviewer of NIH research grants for MBC-2 study section
1999-2004: Organizing committee, national Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting
1999: Temporary member of NIH MBC-2 study section
1999: Participant in NSF Faculty Early Career Development Meeting to discuss methods for integrating teaching and research, Wash. DC
1998: Member of discussion panel on career opportunities in biology, Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting, College Park, MD
1997: Organizing committee for the Mid-Atlantic Yeast Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA
1997: Co-organizer of the Michael J. Chamberlin Research Symposium, Berkeley, CA
1996-present: Ad hoc reviewer of NSF research grants
1994-present: Ad hoc reviewer for scientific journals: Nature, Science, Nature Structure and Molecular Biology, Nature Communications, Cell, Molecular Cell, Developmental Cell, Cell Reports, Stem Cell Reports, Nature Neuroscience, PNAS, eLIFE, EMBO Journal, EMBO Reports, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Genetics, G3, PLOS Biology, PLOS Genetics, Life Science Alliance, Genome Research, Journal of Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Nucleic Acids Research, Epigenetics and Chromatin, Molecular Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Genomics, Gene, Microbiology, PLOS One, Yeast, Methods, and Plasmid
1994-present: Member of professional societies (Genetics Society of America, American
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society for Microbiology)
Academic Community Service
2020: Member of Dietrich School Mentoring Award Selection Committee
2019, 2020: Member of Goldwater Scholar Selection Committee, University of Pittsburgh
2019, 2020: Member of Dickson Prize in Medicine advisory committee, Univ. of Pittsburgh
2018: Co-chair of committee to review internal (CRDF) grants in the physical sciences
2017-present: Member of mentoring committee for Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
2014-present: Member of University of Pittsburgh Research Council
2012-2014: Member of University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association faculty advisory board
2012-2014: Member of University Pittsburgh Council on Graduate Study
2010-2012: Arts and Sciences Tenure Council Committee and Selection Committee
2010-2012: Member of graduate recruiting and admissions committee (PIMB)
2009-present: Member of the Molecular Genetics and Developmental Biology Graduate Training Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Interdisciplinary Program
2008-2010: Director, Ph.D. Program in Integrative Molecular Biology (PIMB), University of Pittsburgh
2008-present: Member of University ad hoc tenure/promotion committees
2007-2008: Member of committee to hire a new Chair for the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
2006-2010: Member of MD-PhD Training Faculty, University of Pittsburgh
2004-2008: Vice-director, Ph.D. Program in Integrative Molecular Biology (PIMB)
2004-2009: Ad hoc member of committee to plan the scientific content of the annual University of Pittsburgh Science Research Festival
2003: Participant in Genetics Tutor Workshop for the development of a cognitive genetics tutor, Carnegie Mellon University
2002-present: Co-organizer of Pittsburgh Area Chromatin Club Meetings
2001-2008: Overseer of Academic Affairs committee, Ph.D. Program in Integrative Molecular Biology (PIMB)
2000-2009: Member of the University committee to select Mellon and Dickson prize awardees
1999-2019: Co-organizer of monthly Pittsburgh Area Yeast Meetings
1998-present: Member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
1997: Organizer of the Department of Biological Sciences Yeast Journal Club
1996-1997: Participant in the Department of Biological Sciences Yeast Journal Club
1995: External reviewer of presentations at Biomedical Engineering Symposium, University of Pittsburgh
1994-present: Participant/presenter/organizer of monthly Pittsburgh Area Yeast Meetings
1994-present: Thesis examiner/committee member for multiple students at the Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University
A critical question to ask, particularly in this genomic era, is how organisms interpret the vast amounts of information encoded in their genomes. The Arndt lab studies the first step in gene expression, the synthesis of mRNA by RNA polymerase II, with a focus on the mechanisms that regulate transcription in the chromatin environment of a eukaryotic cell. The fundamental importance of understanding transcriptional regulation is evident from the large number of human developmental defects and diseases, including cancer and AIDS, that arise when cellular transcription factors are altered by mutation or commandeered by viral proteins. Our current focus is on the mechanistic interplay between the RNA polymerase II transcription elongation machinery and the proteins that modify chromatin structure coordinately with gene expression.
C. Brandon Ogbunu
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University
Much like biological information, the science of genetics is a dynamic system whose behavior depends on varying contexts: the innovative technologies, cultural movements, and political discourses that define the modern world. My candidacy for the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is driven by my desire to reflect and act on how these societal changes influence the types of questions that geneticists ask, why we ask them, and who gets to ask them.
As an evolutionary geneticist who studies adaptive evolution at the level of genes and proteins, my interactions with GSA have expanded my conceptions of what genetics is and helped to fortify my identity as a geneticist. A turning point in these self-examinations came when I was selected to serve as a session chair for the 2020 Population, Evolutionary, and Quantitative Genetics (PEQG) meeting, and as a member of the James Crow Award committee. In these roles, I interacted with and learned from some of the best early-career geneticists in the world and discussed my science with the broader GSA community. The bonds that I’ve forged through this experience were so substantial that they’ve led to my being invited to serve as an organizer of the 2022 PEQG meeting.
Prior to these experiences, my interaction with the GSA took place in reading and publishing in its esteemed publications, which have helped to craft my scholarly direction. I have published on topics within the classical purview of genetics (e.g. recent work on higher-order epistasis1), but also an April 2020 Perspectives article2 that outlined the historical ontogeny of ideas, and even blog entries that live within the realms of science education and communication.
The diversity of my scholarly interactions with the GSA provide a model for who I am as a scientist and preview the activities that I hope to cultivate as a member of the Board of Directors of the GSA. If I were elected, I hope to amplify new voices and movements within the greater genetics community by formalizing GSA activities that emphasize the centrality of scientific communication as part of the modern geneticist toolkit, and the many emergent benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion as core principles of our profession.
In addition, I would continue the GSA’s great legacy of promoting cutting edge science, which includes the support and potential expansion of meetings like PEQG that feature the present and future of basic genetics research.
At a time when the basic foundations of the scientific method are under attack, scientific societies require leadership that is prepared to deal with an increasingly complex world. In my potential role as a member of the Board of Directors, I hope to work alongside some of the best citizen-scientists in the world towards reimagining a scientific enterprise that is equipped to deal with the new environments and contexts in which geneticists operate.
 Guerrero, Rafael F., et al. “Proteostasis environment shapes higher-order epistasis operating on antibiotic resistance.” GENETICS 212.2 (2019): 565-575.
 Ogbunugafor, C. Brandon. “A Reflection on 50 Years of John Maynard Smith’s “Protein Space”.” GENETICS 214.4 (2020): 749-754.
Yale University, New Haven, CT, May 2010, Doctor of Philosophy, Dissertation title: Robustness, Ecological History and Disease Emergence
Yale University, New Haven, CT, Dec. 2007, Master of Philosophy (Microbiology)
Howard University, Washington, D.C., May 2002, Bachelor of Science (Chemistry), Summa Cum Laude, ΦβΚ, Departmental Honors, Honors thesis title: The Liberation of RNA
Before moving to Yale (July 2020), I was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University (2018-2020), and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Vermont (2016-2018). I completed my postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, advised by Daniel L. Hartl (2012-2016).
Note: Some line items below appear in multiple sections where appropriate.
Honors and Awards
2020, Invited speaker, SACNAS 2020. The annual SACNAS conference is “the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference is a gathering which serves to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM.” In 2020, I was privileged to have been selected as an invited speaker.
2020, Invited Session Chair, Population, Evolutionary and Quantitative Genetics (PEQG) Meeting, The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC), Genetics Society of America. Invited to serve as a session chair, which included a presentation during a special session entitled “Future Visions of Population, Evolutionary, and Quantitative Genetics (PEQG).”
2019, Featured faculty, Society for the Study of Evolution. Profiled in a monthly highlight of junior faculty by the Society for the Study of Evolution.
2019, Faculty of 1000 recognition. Corresponding author on article recommended by Faculty of 1000 as being of “special significance in its field.” Guerrero RF, Scarpino SV, Rodrigues JV, Hartl DL, Ogbunugafor CB. Proteostasis environment shapes higher-order epistasis operating on antibiotic resistance. 2019. GENETICS. Jun 1;212(2):565–75.”
2016, Best paper, Complex Systems Track, Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO-2016). Co-authored with Professor Maggie Eppstein, Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont.
2015, International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health Travel Award. Funded travel to the annual meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health Travel Award.
2015, George Washington Henderson Fellowship, University of Vermont. The George Washington Henderson Fellowship Program was established to honor the memory of George Washington Henderson, one of the first African American students elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
2014, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in 2014. The Ford Foundation fellowships seek “to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.”
2013, Postdoctoral Award for Professional Development, Harvard University. This award funded research activities during my postdoctoral training at Harvard University.
2012, Broad Institute Diversity Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow. Funded my postdoctoral research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, at Harvard University.
2010, UNCF-Merck Postdoctoral Science Research Fellowship. Science fellowship that funded postdoctoral research in evolutionary microbiology.
2008, Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. Inducted into a graduate honor society named after the first black graduate of Yale College.
2007, Caroline Jackson Smith Award for Leadership, Afro-American Cultural Center, Yale University. Award given for service and leadership.
2002, United States William J. Fulbright Scholar (Kenya). I was awarded a US Fulbright fellowship to study at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), based in Nairobi Kenya. My research focused on the chemical ecology of oviposition behavior in Anopheles gambiae.
2002, Phi Beta Kappa inductee, Howard University.
2017–2021, Diversity Committee, Society for the Study of Evolution. Mission: to “promote diversity and inclusiveness to enhance the field of evolutionary biology and foster the career of its developing scientists.” I serve on a board with other scientists who consult with the executive committee on programming and initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Present, Editorial board, Complexity.
Present, Board of reviewing editors, eLife (in preparation). I’ve accepted an invitation to join the board of reviewing editors and am participating in the onboarding process.
Present, Supporter and collaborator, Science Coding Immersion Program (SCIP), San Francisco State University. The SCIP program was designed to teach programming to ecology and evolution BIPOC students. It involved a semester-long program, that included instruction and the opportunity to interact with faculty from various institutions.
Present, Member of the Advisory Board, The Metcalf Institute. The Metcalf Institute’s mission is to provide “education, training and resources to journalists, scientists and science communicators across career stages to engage diverse public audiences in conversations about science and the environment.”
2019–present, Board Member, Story Collider. The mission is to use storytelling to show “that science is a vibrant and integral part of all of our lives, and that everyone — regardless of class, race, gender, sexuality, or education — has a story to tell about how it has impacted them.”
2020, Invited Session Chair, Population, Evolutionary and Quantitative Genetics (PEQG) Meeting, The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC), Genetics Society of America.
2020, Member, James Crow Award Committee, Population, Evolutionary and Quantitative Genetics (PEQG) Meeting, The Allied Genetics Conference (TAGC), Genetics Society of America. “The James F. Crow Early Career Researcher Award recognizes outstanding achievements by students and recent PhDs presenting their work at the Population, Evolutionary, and Quantitative Genetics Conference.”
2019, Member, Barry Goldwater Scholarship selection committee, Brown University. The goal of the Goldwater Scholarship is to “provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these field.
2019, Lecturer, Responsible Conduct for Research (RCR) training. “Digital Citizenship.” Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, BioMED, Brown University.
2015 – present, Reviewer: PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Biology, PLoS Tropical Neglected Disease, American Naturalist, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Scientific Reports, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, Journal of Molecular Biology, Mathematical Bioscience and Engineering
2019, Reviewer, NIH study section, Mathematical Analysis of Biological System (MABS).
2018 − 2019, Graduate admissions committee, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University. Read, discussed and evaluated applications for the PhD program in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
2019, Faculty Affiliate, Brown University varsity football team. As faculty affiliate, I was involved in mentoring and advising the varsity football team on academic and professional activities.
2018 − present, Participant, STEMJazz, Brown University. STEMJazz is an incubator and networking hub that explores areas of intersection and commonalities between researchers across STEM fields and their distinct disciplinary focus.
2018 − 2019, Participant, Algorithmic fairness group, Data Science Initiative. Brown University. This is a reading and discussion group focused on understanding the latest literature and topics in algorithmic bias.
2017 − 2019, Participant/instructor, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program 096: Introduction to Race and Racism Across the Disciplines. University of Vermont. Part of a cross-disciplinary team that taught a course on race and racism. My specific work focused on race and biology.
2013 − 2018, Executive board member, Underground Railway Theater, Cambridge, MA. I served on the executive board of a theater company. The Underground Railway Theater “creates live performance in the activist and collaborative spirit of its namesake, inspiring an expanded image of the possible. Through interdisciplinary inquiry and partnership, URT creates accessible theater of great beauty and social content–theater that challenges and delights, informs and celebrates.”
2010 − 2012, Consultant, Health Professions Advisory Program (HPAP), Yale University. Aided in the evaluation of undergraduates applying to health professional programs. Conducted interviews, personal statement workshops, and wrote summaries.
2007 − 2009, Region 7 Director, Student National Medical Association (SNMA).
Activities with Connections to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
2020, The Science, Technology, and Research Scholars II (STARS II) mentor. I mentor an undergraduate student in my research lab for the S.T.A.R.S. II program at Yale University. “The Science, Technology, and Research Scholars II (STARS II) program is a highly selective program. Like STARS , STARS II is designed for Yale College women, minorities, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and other historically underrepresented students to pursue studies and careers in the sciences and engineering.”
2020, Supporter and collaborator, Science Coding Immersion Program (SCIP), San Francisco State University.
2020, Invited speaker, SACNAS 2020.
2020, Panelist, “Broadening Participation Through Community Engagement” STEM for ALL Multiplex. This was a workshop where I presented the “Finding Your Roots” curriculum as a means of providing an inclusive education in STEM.
2019, Moderator, “The Nuts and Bolts of the STEM Job Market.” The Annual Meeting of Ford Fellows. Moderated a panel navigating the job search.
2019, Speaker, “Surviving in STEM.” Black excellence in STEM (BE-STEM), San Francisco State University.
2019, Speaker, BIOL 100 “Living Biology at Brown & Beyond.” A Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) course. Guest lectured during a class for underclassmen science concentrators on my research.
2019, Speaker, Graduate Schools of Color (GSOC) “Colors of STEM.” Brown University.
2017 − present, Diversity committee member, Society for the Study and Evolution (SSE).
2019, Committee member, Diversify NETSCI (Network Science)
2019, Speaker, Graduate Schools of Color (GSOC) orientation: “What Really Matters,” Brown University
2019, Lecturer, New Scientist Catalyst-Mosaic + Preorientation “Day of Classes,” Brown University
2019, Lecturer, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), Brown University. “Using social media and website platforms as a scientist.”
2019, Speaker, “What really matters” speaker series. Sponsored by the Graduate School and Chaplain’s Office, Brown University
2018, Co-presenter, “STEM For All Video Showcase.” Presented a video featuring NSF-funded project that aimed to depict projects aimed at transform STEM-engagement. Presentation won “facilitator’s choice” and “public choice” awards.
2018, Speaker, “Evolutionary science in biomedical research.” Symposium lecture at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).
2018, Speaker, “Nuts and bolts of going on the academic job market.”Conference of Ford Fellows, The National Academies.
2018, Speaker, Graduate Students of Color (GSOC) in STEM discussion. Brown University.
2016 − 2017, Instructor, Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings. Web series & summer camp.
2013 − 2014, Visiting lecturer, Boston University Prison Education Program (PEP). Science and genetics lectures at Massachusetts Committing Institution (For female offenders).
2011, Instructor and course director, SCHOLAR program at Yale University. Biotechnology summer program. I organized curriculum and oversaw the teaching of underrepresented middle and New Haven highs school students who conducted research on molecular biology.
2010 − 2012, Contributor, Health Justice Connecticut (HJCT). I wrote regular articles on topics related to health inequalities.
2006 – 2010, Graduate assistant, Afro-American Cultural Center, Yale University. Assistant to the director and helped to organize events and activities.
2008, Graduate student coordinator, BIOSTEP Summer Research Program, Yale School of Medicine. Managed undergraduates who participated in a summer research program.
C. Brandon Ogbunu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. His research investigates complex problems in evolutionary genetics, population genetics, and epidemiology. Specifically, his research attempts to understand and disentangle the nature and magnitude of nonlinear interactions between genes, mutations, and environments, often in proteins and microbial models of disease.
In addition, he runs a parallel research program at the intersection of science, society, and culture. In this capacity, he writes, gives public lectures, and creates media of various kinds. He is currently an Ideas contributor at Wired and has written for a range of publications including Scientific American, Undark, and the Boston Review all on topics at the intersection of science and society.
Professor of Genome Sciences, Department of Genome Sciences, University of Wisconsin
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to run for a position on the Board of Directors of the GSA. The GSA has been my home professional society ever since I was a graduate student just learning yeast genetics, genomics, and evolution in David Botstein’s lab (my 20th membership anniversary is this year!) I fondly remember my first “Yeast Meeting” in Seattle, which ultimately turned out to be where I would land for my faculty position years later. Destiny! I have continued to be actively involved in the GSA meetings, more recently as a co-organizer of the Yeast Meetings and TAGC, and I have always particularly appreciated their focus on trainees. Continuing and expanding that orientation towards the future of our field would be one of my priorities on the Board, with a particular interest in facilitating genetics education for trainees in college and even high school. The GSA has such a diverse collection of genetics educators among our membership, and working from the great base we already have, I would like to see us do more to coordinate sharing data-driven best practices and fire-tested teaching materials and lab activities.
I would also value lending my support to GSA’s consistent voice as a champion of strong model organism genetics and basic science research. In my lab, we use yeast to work on fundamental topics in understanding genome evolution, and also to address questions more immediately relevant to human health such as high throughput methods to test the functional consequences of human genetic variation (which is the topic of my most recent manuscript submission to Genetics!) I have found these various aspects of my research program to be highly complementary, and in fact would never have gotten into the human gene studies without honing the technology development on the evolution questions we’re interested in. As a beneficiary throughout my career of being in departments with access to the latest and greatest technologies, I would like to improve access to these technologies to ensure they are quickly democratized to all geneticists who would like to use them. GSA is already a great facilitator of this via their journals and professional development activities, and I can imagine doing more in this area, whether that’s disseminating protocols through publication or less formal means, or curating resources and courses for students looking to learn new skills.
Whether I’m ultimately elected or not, I look forward to being part of GSA for my whole career. I’m excited at the prospect that part of that involvement could be as a Board Member. Thanks for your consideration.
1995-1999: BS, Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
1999-2003: PhD, Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
2003-2008 : Lewis-Sigler Fellow & Lecturer, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Faculty Positions Held
2008-2014: Assistant Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2014-2019: Associate Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2019-present: Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2007: Consultant, Schering-Plough Research Institute, Infectious Diseases
2011: Consultant, Cargill Bio TDC
2015-present: Co-Founder and Advisor, Phase Genomics
2016-2017: University Research Affiliate Research Fellow, UT Austin (sabbatical)
Honors and Awards
1995: Presidential Scholar
1999: Ned Holt Prize, one of three MIT Biology Departmental Awards
1999-2003: Stanford Graduate Fellow
2000: National Science Foundation Fellowship (declined)
2000-2003: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow
2009: Marian E. Smith Junior Faculty Award
2010: Pew Scholar (declined)
2010-2015: Rita Allen Foundation Scholar
2010: Rising Star Young Investigator, Genome Technology Magazine
2011-2013: Basil O’Connor Scholar, March of Dimes
2012-2019: Senior Fellow, Genetic Networks, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
2016-2021: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar
2007: Eukaryotic Genetic Systems Panel, National Science Foundation
2009-2016: Scientific Advisory Board, SynBERC NSF Center
2011: Evolutionary Genetics Panel, National Science Foundation
2013, 2015, 2016 ad hoc panelist, Genetic Variation and Evolution Study Section, National Institutes of Health
2015-2017: Mentoring and Professional Development Committee, Genetics Society of America
2015: Genetics Centennial Advisory Committee, Genetics Society of America
2016: Molecular and Cellular Evolution (MCE) Panel, National Science Foundation
2016-present: Member, Engineering Biology Research Consortium
2018, 2020: ad hoc panelist, Genomics, Computational Biology, and Technology Study Section, National Institutes of Health
2018-present: Scientific Advisory Board, Saccharomyces Genome Database
Grant Reviewer (ad hoc)
NSF Evolutionary Processes, NSF Genetic Mechanisms, NSF Genes and Genome Systems Cluster, NSF Evolutionary Genetics, NERC, Human Frontiers Science Program, Academia Sinica Career Development Award, Research Foundation Flanders, US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Israel Science Foundation, U.S. Army Research Office
Yeast Synthetic Biology Workshop, Organizing Committee, 2010
GTCbio Next Generation Sequencing, Advisory Board, 2011
BioVis/IEEE Symposium on Biological Data Visualization, Program Committee, Best Paper Committee, 2012
ASM Experimental Microbial Evolution, Organizing Committee, 2014, 2016
Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology Meeting, Organizing Committee, 2012, Genomic Analysis Subcommittee Chair, 2014, 2016, 2018
EMBL Conference on Experimental Approaches to Evolution and Ecology (renamed and focus expanded in 2020 to Molecular Mechanisms in Evolution and Ecology), Advisory Committee, 2014, co-organizer 2016, 2018, 2020
The Allied Genetics Conference Program Committee, 2020
The Dunham lab develops and applies genomic tools to study genome evolution and genetic variation in yeast and humans. We utilize the budding yeasts as a testbed for technology development and as an experimentally tractable system for evolutionary genetics and genomics. By leveraging these systems in creative ways, we hope to learn in molecular detail how cells evolve and the mechanisms by which they do so, addressing important open questions on mutation spectrum, genome structure, mechanisms and consequences of copy number change, genetic interactions, evolution of gene expression, and other fundamental topics.
Assistant Professor, Biology Department, UNC-Chapel Hill
The study of genetics has been the connecting thread through all the phases of my scientific work. As a college student in Colombia studying the genetic differences among fungal pathogens I got hooked into science. Since I moved to the USA in 2006, the GSA itself has been a central part of my scientific career. The Fly Meeting was the first meeting I attended. Genetics was the first journal that asked me to review a manuscript. My research involves understanding evolutionary processes using techniques from fly genetics, genome sequencing, and ecological genetics to understand how species form. I mentor researchers at multiple career stages ranging from first-year undergraduates to senior postdocs. The GSA advances the creativity, mentorship, and intellectual rigor I strive for and try to instill in my students. It would be an honor to serve in the Board of Directors and share my experiences in leadership and science. As a member of the council of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) I founded the Diversity Committee, which formalized the society’s efforts to understand and improve the experiences of members from underrepresented groups. We first focused on collecting demographic data to identify the groups underserved by scientific societies and providing mentorship networks for groups with similar life experiences at different career stages. I can bring this problem-solving approach to the GSA. If elected, my goal will be to further the GSA’s connections with smaller scientific societies, both local and international. I would like to keep fostering the environment that supported my career while trying to tend ties to underrepresented groups. I am fully aware of the responsibility that running for the Board of Directors of GSA represents; I am also aware that I can make a difference. Thank you for considering me for this position.
2011: Ph.D. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago. Spring 2011. Advisor: Dr. Jerry A. Coyne
2005: B.S. in Microbiology (Honors). Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia.
2005: B.S. in Biology (Honors). Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia.
2011-14: Chicago Postdoctoral Fellow. Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago. Advisor: Dr. Molly F. Przeworski
2014-20: Assistant Professor. Biology Department. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
2020-present: Assistant Professor. Biology Department. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Honors and Awards
2016: Kavli Fellow, National Academy of Sciences
2014: Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize. Outstanding Evolutionary Biologist, Society for the Study of Evolution
2012: John Maynard-Smith Award runner-up. Outstanding young evolutionary biologist, European Society for Evolutionary Biology
2012: Best Dissertation in the Biological Sciences, University of Chicago
2011: Sandler Award Runner-up, Best Drosophila dissertation, Genetics Society of America
2010: Fitch prize finalist, Best molecular evolution dissertation, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution
Service in Professional Societies
Hamilton award committee. Society for the Study of Evolution
Councilor (elected). Society for the Study of Evolution
Chair, Diversity committee, SSE.
Chair, Inclusiveness, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) Award.
Reviewing Activity: Grants
Israel Science Foundation (ISF)
Banco de la República (Colombia National Bank Science Grants)
National Science Foundation (Division of Environmental Biology)
Reviewing Activity: Editorial boards
Reviewing editor at Journal of Evolutionary Biology.
Associate Editor, American Naturalist
Guest Editor, PLOS Genetics
Speciation typically occurs when two populations split and begin to accumulate genetic differences, which can lead to the evolution of reproductive isolating mechanisms (RIM) that prevent them from interbreeding in the future. Gene flow between species opposes this divergence, since it is a homogenizing force that can swamp genetic and phenotypic differences. Reproductive isolation as a barrier to gene flow must therefore be a key feature in the persistence of species. Species of the Drosophila genus remain some of the best models for the study of speciation. Nonetheless, studies of gene flow during the build up of reproductive isolation in Drosophila have been limited by the fact that very few hybrid zones are known in Drosophila. Our research uses a multi-level approach to discover the genetic mechanisms (within individuals and populations) and evolutionary consequences (for species pairs and for the entire Drosophila genus) of traits involved in reproductive isolation.
Distinguished Professor and Chair, Tata Chancellor’s Endowed Professorship (VI) in Cell and Developmental Biology, UCSD
It is my honor to be considered for a position on the GSA board of Directors. I received my Ph.D. from the Genetics Department at the University of Alberta working on hormonal regulation of development in Drosophila. The Department included faculty working on a wide range of questions in diverse species, all with a common interest in using genetic approaches. If you didn’t have a mutant, or weren’t screening for a mutant, you were not doing it right. Because of this perspective, I developed a deep appreciation for genetics that continues to this day. After I finished my Ph.D., I switched kingdoms to work on an emerging model plant system called Arabidopsis thaliana. Although I have not been a member of the GSA since my graduate school days, I’ve served as an Associate Editor on Genes, Genomes, and Genetics since 2011. For the last three years I have been Chair of the Section of Cell and Developmental Biology at UCSD. When my term ends in June 2021, I would like to use my time and energy to serve the Genetics and Biology communities outside of my institution. If elected I look forward to learning more about the initiatives and activities of the GSA. Two areas of interest are particularly important to me. The first is diversity. It is essential that all levels of the scientific enterprise continue efforts to increase the diversity of our community. As Chair I have been involved in efforts to increase the diversity of our faculty and student populations. The second area reflects my own scientific interests. As a plant biologist I am eager to represent plant systems in the GSA and work to ensure that plants remain integrated into the larger genetics community. I look forward to my future association with the Society.
1978: BSC with honors in Genetics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
1983: Ph.D., Genetics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
1983-86: Research Associate, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory
1986-93: Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington
1986-99: Fellow, Indiana Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology
1993-99: Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington
1999-2002: D.J. Sibley Professor of Molecular Genetics, Section of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas
2002-2008: Full Professor, Carlos O. Miller Chair of Plant Developmental Biology, Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington
2006-2008: Head, Division of Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Biology
2008 – present: Distinguished Professor, Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCSD
2011 – 2018: Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2017 – present: Chair, Section of Cell and Developmental Biology
2018 – present: Tata Chancellor’s Professorship in Cell and Developmental Biology
Fellowships and Awards
1979-83: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarship
1981-83: Alberta Heritage Trust Fund Postgraduate Research Award
1989: Department of Biology Teaching Award
1995: Senior Class Award for Teaching Excellence
2003: Elected Fellow of AAAS
2006: Kumho International Science Award in Plant Molecular Biology
2006: Keynote Address at 17th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research
2007: Anton Lang Memorial Lecture, Michigan State University
2007: Elected Member of National Academy of Sciences
2007: International Plant Growth Substance Association, Silver Medal Award for Distinguished Research
2011: HHMI Investigator
2011: Woolhouse Lecture John Innes Center, Norwich UK
2018: TATA Chancellor’s Endowed Professorship
2020: University of Alberta Alumni Honor Award
1994-96: Elected Member, North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (NAASC)
1996: Co-chair, NAASC
1996-98: Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center Advisory Committee
1997-01: Member, NIH Molecular Biology Study Section
1997-03: Arabidopsis Genome Project Advisory Board
2008-10: American Society of Plant Biology, Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award Committee
2009-12: Elected member, NAASC
2011-12: Co-chair, NAASC
2011-12: Chair, Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee (MASC)
2012-15: Member, NIH DEV1 Study Section
2014-18: Chair, Scientific Advisory Board, Araport, The Arabidopsis database
2014-present: Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
2019-21: Elected President of the International Plant Growth Substance Association
2020: NIH Special Emphasis Study Section
The plant hormone auxin has been implicated in virtually every stage of plant growth and development from embryogenesis to senescence. My laboratory is using the genetically tractable plant Arabidopsis thaliana to identify and characterize auxin response pathways. Our work has shown that auxin promotes the rapid degradation of a family of transcriptional repressors called the Aux/IAA proteins via the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. Auxin interacts directly with a ubiquitin protein ligase called SCFTIR1, and promotes an interaction between the E3 and the Aux/IAAs. We are now studying the mechanism SCFTIR1 action and the role of the complex in various aspects of plant growth. In addition, we are turning our attention to the complex transcriptional networks that mediate auxin growth responses. Our ultimate goal is to understand the systems that mediate auxin-dependent development at the level of the cell and organism.
Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics, UNC School of Medicine – Genetics
I am a mouse geneticist and developmental epigeneticist with >20 years of experience. My research is governed by a life-long passion to understand how traits are regulated and formed during development, and once formed, how traits are transmitted from parent to child through the germline. My current work uses genetic mouse models (targeted, classical, and new RI strains – Collaborative Cross) and human biospecimens (placenta) to study mechanisms of persistent/heritable environmental modulation of epigenetic programming that causes chronic cardiometabolic disease. We also study how genetic variation drives susceptibility to these outcomes. Our work is integral to early clinical diagnoses & intervention of diseases with developmental origins and supports the framework of Personalized Medicine.
I am thrilled for the potential to serve on the Board of Directors for the Genetics Society of America. If elected, I will contribute a multi-disciplinary research perspective from the fields of genetics, epigenetics, nutrition, and toxicology. As an African American woman with >15 years of experience supporting the professional development of individuals from underrepresented ethnicities, nationalities, and genders, I am excited at the opportunity to help foster a community of geneticists with a diversity of ideas and perspectives. This is critical to address our unanswered questions in areas such as genetic contributors of health disparities. Finally, as an early career investigator who has just been accepted for tenure at UNC in Genetics, this position will provide me with additional leadership tools, networking, and insight into emerging topics that can nurture my research program.
2007 – 2012: Postdoctoral training, Cell and Developmental Biology Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
2002 – 2007: Ph.D., Genetics and Molecular Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
1997 – 2001: B.S. in Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
2019-present: Co-director of the Developmental Disease Group, NIEHS funded UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS), Chapel Hill, NC
Focus: Advisory support to CEHS for center activities (e.g. strategic planning for grant renewal)
2016-present: Honorary Researcher, MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for health Research Unit (DPHRU), University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Focus: Impact of gestational diabetes on placental development via epigenetic programming
2013-present: Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics (primary), School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Focus: Genetic & Epigenetic mechanisms of developmental programming; Precision Nutrition
2013-prese: Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition (joint), Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Focus: Genetic & Epigenetic mechanisms of developmental programming; Precision Nutrition
2013-present: Affiliate Member, UNC Nutrition Research Institute, Kannapolis, NC
Focus: Precision Nutrition & Dietary modulation of the epigenome
2001-2002: Research Assistant, laboratory of Dr. Andrew Clark, Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Focus: Gene-gene interactions driving Drosophila innate immune response
1999 & 2000: Summer Undergraduate Research Intern, laboratories of Drs. Mary Galinski & John Barnwell, Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Center for Disease Control (CDC) & Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Research Focus: Genetic diversity regulating virulence of malaria parasite (Plasmodium) species
Honors and Awards
2020: Research Spotlight, San Francisco State University NIH funded “Scientist Spotlight Initiative”, https://scientistspotlights.org/spotlight-search/?text=Ideraabdullah
2020: 100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America, crosstalk.cell.com/blog
o Selected to highlight Black professors doing inspiring research at American Institutions; According to the author, selection was based on “publications, mentoring experience, university, teaching, social justice and minority outreach, honors & awards, and social media platforms”.
2019: Young Investigator Award, 22nd Vitamin D workshop, New York City, NY
2019: Early Stage Investigator honoree, Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Annual Meeting, Iowa City, IA
2014 – 2019: Transition to Independent Environmental Health Research Career Development Award (K22), NIEHS, NIH
2015: University Research Council Award, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC
2014: IBM Junior Faculty Development Award, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC
2011: FASEB-MARC Travel Award, GSA Mouse Genetics Meeting, Washington, DC
2010 – 2011: Mentored Scientist Transition Award, Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
2008 – 2010: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32), NIGMS, NIH
2009: Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship – Gordon Research Conference
2006: Sarah Graham Kenan/ Edwards-Hobgood Dissertation Fellowship, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC
2002 – 2003: University Merit Assistantship, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC
Society Leadership & Conference Organizing
Council member, US DOHAD (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease) Society (2019 – present)
Advisor, EDC-NC Oversight Committee (2019 – present) – (EDC-NC is a local community of more than 80 scientists, medical and public health professionals, who support research on the role of endocrine disruptors on human and ecological health.)
Co-organizer, US DOHAD Society Annual Conference (2019-present)
Co-organizer, EDC-NC Annual Symposium (2019-present)
Session leader, Society for the Study of Reproduction Annual Conference, San Jose, CA (2019)
Genomic Sciences Reg. Exchange committee, David H. Murdock Research Institute, Kannapolis, NC (2015 – 2017)
Session leader, Environmental Endocrine Disruptors – late-breaking topics, Gordon Research Conference, Sunday River, ME (2016)
Session leader, Nutri-epigenetics, Short course on Nutrigenetics, Nutrigenomics & Precision Nutrition, UNC Nutrition Research Institute, Kannapolis, NC (2016)
Panel Speaker, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Grant writing workshop, Washington, DC (2015)
Co-organizer & Session leader, Nutrition & epigenetics, 9th Congress of the International Society of Nutrigenetics/ Nutrigenomics, Chapel Hill, NC (2014-2015)
Chair, Environmental Endocrine Disruptors – Mechanistic insights into the effects of environmental endocrine disruptors; deciphering genetic and epigenetic influences, Gordon Research Seminar, Italy (2012-2014)
National Conference Abstract Reviewer, ABRCMS (2011 – 2014)
Grant Review Panels
NIH Early Career Reviewer, DEV1, San Francisco, CA (2018)
USDA Project Plan reviewer, USDA Office of Scientific Quality Review (2014)
Editorial Board Member
Environmental Epigenetics (2015 – present)
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (2014 – present)
– Lead Guest Editor on Special collection on “Precision Nutrition” (2020-present)
Clinical Epigenetics journal (2018-2019)
Science of Food and Agriculture (2019)
Current Developments in Nutrition (2018)
BMC Bioinformatics (2018)
PLOS One (2016)
FASEB journal (2013, 2016)
Genes and Genomes (2014)
Nutrition Reviews (2014)
Membership in Professional Organizations
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – North Carolina (EDC-NC) (2019-present)
Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR) (2016-present)
US & International Societies for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) (2015-present)
Society of Toxicology (SOT) (2013 – present)
American Society for Nutrition (ASN) (2014- present)
Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) (2017-2019)
Genetics Society of America (GSA) (2016-2019)
International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) (2003-2002, 2013 – 2019)
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) (2013 -2017)
American Society of Andrology (ASA) (2012-2016)
The Endocrine Society (2012-2014)
To UNC Chapel Hill
Genetics Department Diversity Liaison Committee (2019 – present)
Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS) Internal Advisory Committee (2019 – present)
Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine (CiTEM) Executive Committee (2018 – present)
Genetics Department Advisory Committee (2017 – 2019)
UNC Nutrition Research Institute Nutrigenomics Search Committee (2016 – 2017)
Nutrition Research Institute Impact Award Committee (2014 – 2015)
Nutrition Department Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Search Committee (2014 – 2015)
Nutrition Department Cardiovascular and Metabolic Search Committee (2014 – 2015)
Nutrition Department Nutrition and Cancer Search Committee (2014 – 2015)
Nutrition Research Institute Strategic Planning Committee (2013)
Genetics Department Computational Faculty Search Committee (2013)
Academic Program Support & Student Recruitment
Mentor/Facilitator, UNC Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) (2017- present)
Preceptor, Curriculum in Toxicology & Environmental Medicine (CiTEM) (2014 – present)
Interviewer/Recruiter, Biological & Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP) (2013-present)
Preceptor, Nutrition PhD program (2013 – present)
Preceptor, Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology (2013 – present)
Poster reviewer/Judge, Department of Genetics Annual Retreat (2015 – 2019)
Poster reviewer/Judge, Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine Annual Retreat (2019)
Other Administrative Activities
Co-Director, Developmental Diseases Group, Center for Environmental health and susceptibility (CEHS) (2019 – present)
Session Chair, Genetics Department annual retreat (2015, 2016)
Coordinator, UNC Nutrition Research Institute Seminar Series (2013 – 2014)
Presenter, UNC-CH Nutrition Research Institute Board Meeting (2013)
Manya Warrier, Research Track Faculty, Zeisel lab (2017 – 2018)
Center Grant Support
Advisor & Grant reviewer, Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) Internal Governance Committee (2015 – 2018)
Membership in cores, centers, and professional organizations at UNC
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (2020-present)
NC Diabetes Research Center, P30-NIDDK (2019-present)
Carolina Chromatin Consortium (C3) (2015-present)
WMB support group for female faculty (2014 – present)
Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility (CEHS) (2014-present)
Nutrition Obesity Research Core (NORC) (2013-present)
Association for Women in Science (AWIS) (2011- present)
Carolina Black Caucus (2014 – 2016)
The Ideraabdullah lab studies mechanisms of environmental modulation of the epigenome during development. We examine the impact on progeny development and health across the lifespan as well as potential for transmission to subsequent generations. A key focus is to identify naturally occurring genetic differences that contribute to variability in these outcomes for the purpose of identifying and helping susceptible populations. Ongoing projects investigate the impact of vitamin D deficiency, pesticide exposure, and hyperglycemia during pregnancy.
Professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, Center for Population Biology, Genome Center, University of California, Davis
I am running for the board of directors of GSA simply because I would like to have a say in the future of the society. I would like to expand GSA to have an explicit plant section and reoccurring GSA-hosted plant genetics conference. I would like to see GSA continue to remain at the forefront of innovation in publishing – from continued advocacy for preprints, reproducibility, and transparency, to changes in how journal reviews are conducted and used. And I would like to see GSA further efforts to ensure that our conferences and publications reflect the diversity of scientists in the field of genetics. This means redoubling our commitment to conferences that are welcoming environments for all geneticists, to publishing processes that are equitable, to an inclusive leadership team, to confronting the history of racism in our field, and to establishing and maintaining vigorous mentoring and training programs that reach under-served geneticists.
My research program focuses on the evolutionary genetics of maize and its wild relatives, from questions about adaptation in wild populations to the evolutionary dynamics of transposable elements within the genome. I teach undergraduate genetics and a graduate course in ecological genomics. I have served as Senior and Associate editor at G3, where I have helped shape journal policy and established a fledgling editor training program for early career researchers. I helped organize the 2020 PEQG portion of the TAGC conference, and am chairing the next PEQG conference.
PhD Genetics, University of Georgia 2006
MS Botany, University of California Riverside 2000
BA Botany, University of California Riverside 1998
Professor, Dept. Evolution and Ecology, University of California Davis 2019-present
Professor, Dept. Plant Sciences, University of California Davis 2016-2019
Associate Professor, Dept. Plant Sciences, University of California Davis 2012-2016
Assistant Professor, Dept. Plant Sciences, University of California Davis 2009-2012
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California Irvine 2006-2008
Profesor de Asignatura, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 2001
Fellowships and Awards
Corn Pun Trophy, Genetics Society of America 2017
Stadler Mid-Career Excellence in Maize Genetics Award 2016
Faculty Development Award in recognition of university service 2015
DuPont Young Professor Award 2012
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers 2009
Dean’s Award for Postdoctoral Excellence, UC Irvine 2008
Professional Service – selected from the past two years
Chair, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series
Member, Faculty Executive Cmte, College of Biological Sciences
Advisor, graduate student of color mentoring program
Faculty host, HBCU summer research internship program
Campus-wide High-Performance Computing Task Force
Executive Cmte, Plant Biology Graduate Group
Ecology Graduate Group admissions committee
Graduate advisor in ecological genomics, Ecology Graduate Group
Campus Disciplinary Peer Review Committee on sexual violence and sexual harassment
Campus Task Force on Bioinformatics
Section Chair for Agricultural Plant Biology
Plant Sciences executive committee
Faculty advisor, Corteva graduate student symposium in plant science
Search committees: Climate Adaptation
Dept. of Plant Sciences academic planning committee
Chair, PEQG Conference (2022)
Organizing Committee, PEQG 2020 Conference
Abstract review, SACNAS
LEAD21 Leadership in Land Grant Institutions, Class 14
Skype-a-Scientist K-12 Outreach: Canada, Spain, New Jersey
Organizer, Zeavolution webinar series
Maize Genetics conference steering committee
Maize Genetics Awards Committee
Editorial Boards: Genes, Genomes, and Genetics (Senior and Associate Editor)Genetics (Guest Editor)
PLoS Genetics (Associate Editor)PeerJ (Senior and Associate Editor)PNAS (Guest Editor)
Journal peer review: eLife, Cell, Nature Communications, Nature Reviews Genetics, Science, PLoS
Genetics, New Phytologist, Plant Cell, Molecular Ecology, G3
Maize spread rapidly after domestication, adapting to a wide range of environments. Today maize is grown across a broader geographic breadth than any of the world’s other staple crops, from sea level to altitudes of >4,000>4,000m and from deserts to near-flooded conditions. The wild relatives of maize have also adapted to environments varying widely in elevation, temperature, and moisture availability. The lab is working on a number of projects using maize and its wild relatives to understand the genetic basis of adaptation.
Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
I am honored to be running for the GSA Board of Directors. My research group at UC-Berkeley follows from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, who focused on the evolution of new traits shaped by ecological interactions between organisms, whether within or between species. Such interactions are an evolutionary crucible in which new adaptations are forged, increasing the fitness of their bearers. Traits arising from intraspecific competition, host-parasite, predator-prey and mutualistic interactions are often more straightforward to study than those shaped by the abiotic environment because their genomic architectures tend to be simpler, and their evolutionary histories more dynamic. Species interactions can also drive the evolution of reproductive isolation, resulting in the origin of new species.
Lately, our work has tended to focus on understanding how toxins mediate species interactions—specifically, how toxins evolve, how they are perceived, resisted and even co-opted by animals. Toxins of biological origin can become keystone molecules, supporting the evolution and integration of diverse phenotypic modules in animals. The evolution of toxicity transforms animals from cryptic to conspicuous, nocturnal to diurnal, small to big, fast to slow, solitary to social, local to widespread, neglectful to doting parents and short- to long-lived. But toxicity is not only restricted to gaudy animals. A parallel transformation unfolded as cells of the animal immune system became armed with an arsenal of novel toxins that we also study. We use genetic approaches in all of our work–most recently using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to engineer ‘monarch flies’ that carried the same mutations as the monarch butterfly in the sodium pump—the molecular target of the heart poisons in the milkweed plants on which their larvae feed.
I was raised deep in the Sax-Zim bog of northern Minnesota, not far from the tiny Finnish township of Toivola, on the “Arctic Riviera.” I attended a K-12 public school with 125 other students in a district spanning hundreds of square miles. I then went to a small college in Minnesota and worked on evolutionary genetics of Galápagos birds and their parasites for my dissertation research with Patricia Parker in St. Louis. I was trained in genomics and molecular biology with Naomi Pierce and Fred Ausubel at Harvard as an NIH NRSA postdoc. Once there, I began to develop a genomic model herbivore of Arabidopsis—a drosophilid fly called Scaptomyza flava that I found in a park living in wild mustards. We continue to study how these flies have adapted to feeding on these mustard oil-bearing plants.
I am running for the Board of Directors position because, in addition to all of the exciting science the society supports, I see an opportunity to give back to an organization that I believe has been on the forefront of making biology a more inclusive space. I have been working closely with GSA for the past year as the first Chair of the GSA Equity and Inclusion (E&I) Committee. But even before this, I was asked to help co-Chair the Annual Drosophila Research Conference a few years ago. I was so impressed with the support we were given as we sought to build a program that included a slate of speakers and symposia organizers who represented all facets of the scientists who make up this great society. Because I have seen real change at the highest levels of GSA, I am committed to doing whatever I can to help continue this trajectory. As part of a new program created by the E&I Committee, we recently invited our first cohort of Presidential Members, most of whom will be linked up with the Early Career Leadership Program. The goal is to wholeheartedly welcome and provide career support for junior scientists from historically excluded backgrounds. From grappling with the history of eugenics in our field to the challenges minoritized scientists face at all levels of the academic hierarchy, we have our work cut out for us. But, this good fight is being supported at every level by GSA leadership and I would like to buttress that by becoming more engaged with the Board.
Why am I so passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion? I was the first out LGBTQIA+ tenured faculty member in my department at the University of Arizona and the same is true in my home department at the University of California, Berkeley. This may be a little surprising to you—but it isn’t to me. The data show that LGBTQIA+ drop out of STEM majors at higher rates while undergrads. The reasons are manifold, but role modeling is known to help these scientists. Academia has given me an amazing life. I share here details of my journey simply to provide hope for those who might be able to relate to some aspects of it. It isn’t necessarily fun to talk about some of these things. But role models were very important to me as a budding scientist. We need more of them. And if elected to the Board, I hope to continue to be a role model for LGBTQIA+ and first-generation scientists in our community.
2006-10: Postdoctoral Training, Genomics and Molecular Biology of Plant-Insect-Bacterial Interactions. Harvard University
2001-2006: Ph.D., Biology (emphasis Ecology, Evolution and Systematics). University of Missouri, St. Louis
1998-2000: M.S., Entomology. University of Missouri, Columbia
1994-1998: B.A. cum laude, Distinction in Biology. Saint John’s University, Minnesota
2016-pres.: Associate Professor. University of California, Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology [main appointment], Affiliated faculty: Center for Computational Biology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University & Jepson Herbaria, and Essig Museum of Entomology.
2010-16: Assistant Professor (2010-2015) and Associate Professor (2015-2016). University of. Arizona, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [main appointment], Joint faculty: Department of Entomology, Department of Neuroscience, and School of Plant Sciences. Graduate faculty: Graduate Interdisciplinary Program (GIDP) in Entomology and Insect Science and GIDP in Genetics.
2007-10: NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) Independent Postdoctoral Fellow. Harvard University, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, and Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital.
2006: Head Teaching Fellow. Harvard University, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology for Animal Behavior undergraduate course (OEB 57)
Recent Honors and Awards
2020-21: Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
2020-present: Elected Fellow, Royal Entomological Society Fellow
2020-present: Elected Fellow, California Academy of Sciences
2020-pres.: Appointed Provost’s Faculty Core Advisor, UC-Berkeley Faculty Link Leadership Program to support the satisfaction, success, and sense of belonging of faculty across the campus, especially underrepresented and minoritized faculty
2019-pres.: Chair, Committee on Equity and Inclusion, Genetics Society of America
2019-present: Elections Committee Member, The Fly Board, Genetics Society of America
2018: Co-organizer, Annual Drosophila Research Conference, Philadelphia, PA, Genetics Society of America
2018-pres.: Member, Faculty of 1000 (now Faculty Opinions), Plant-Biotic Interactions Section
Ad hoc reviewer for funding agencies (last 5 years):
Austrian Science Foundation, German Federal Research Foundation, French National Research
Agency “Blanc SVSE 7”, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), European Science Foundation College of Reviewers, U.S. National Science Foundation (USA), FONDAP Program of CONICYT-Chile Centers of Excellence
Editorial Board Member (last 5 years):
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics (Guest Member, 2020), Journal of Chemical Ecology, Biology Letters, Developmental Dynamics
My research group studies the genetic and genomic basis of adaptation to toxins that mediate species interactions. Primarily we use Arabidopsis thaliana as a model host plant and a drosophilid fly that attacks this plant in nature as a model system. We also use Drosophila melanogaster itself as a model system for retracing the evolution of toxin resistance in insects less amenable to genetic manipulation.