About me

iPhone Pix 017

Annual spotted salamander survey at Sweet Briar College

I became a scientist at a very young age, when I conducted an experiment about how the topical application of yogurt can alter domestic feline behavior. Sadly, my experiment was cut short, with only one replicate, and I learned the value in obtaining all necessary permits before beginning a study. But my family learned that I was interested in biology.

In high school, I worked as a part-time intern at the USGS looking into the impact on a bacterial ecosystem of removing a dam from a lake in the western United States. During that time, I happened to read a New York Times interview with Sinéad Collins and I became fascinated with experimental evolution. I decided that that was what I wanted to do.

During my undergraduate studies at Sweet Briar College in southern Virginia, I participated in several exciting research experiences (not all to do with science – see my swordfighting post here). My work culminated in a senior honors thesis on the adaptation of the marine alga Emiliania huxleyi to increasing and fluctuating concentrations of CO2, a research project which I created together with Dr. Janet Steven (now at Christopher Newport University).

I am currently at the ETH Zürich, where I have completed my masters studies in evolutionary biology and begun my PhD. I am pursuing investigations along several lines in the Velicer lab, including the evolution of Myxococcus xanthus as a mesopredator in a 3-member microbial food chain and the dynamics of cheating and cooperating in wild M. xanthus populations. Conceptually, I am interested in the origins of life, the evolution of biodiversity, and the applications of experimental evolution as a technique. Although I have moved in a different direction from my bachelor thesis work, I am still curious about the interface of experimental evolution and climate change, which I believe offers exciting possibilities to expand both fields.

Outside of science, I enjoy having an active lifestyle. I rock climb and boulder, ride horses, scuba dive, hike, and camp. I love reading science fiction and short stories, and I write short stories of my own. I am a strong believer in the value of Montessori education, having been a Montessori student at the elementary level, and I am working on a blog about that experience.

bacterium in flask